‘Leave It to Beaver’ star Tony Dow dead at 77 after premature announcement


Tony Dow, best known for his role as big brother Wally in the classic TV sitcom “Leave It to Beaver” has died. He was 77.

“We have received confirmation from Christopher, Tony’s son, that Tony passed away earlier this morning, with his loving family at his side to see him through this journey,” an announcement read on Dow’s Facebook account Wednesday afternoon.

“We know that the world is collectively saddened by the loss of this incredible man. He gave so much to us all and was loved by so many. One fan said it best — ‘It is rare when there is a person who is so universally loved like Tony,’” the statement added.

His son Christopher called it “a very sad day” in the announcement.

“Although this is a very sad day, I have comfort and peace that he is in a better place. He was the best Dad anyone could ask for. He was my coach, my mentor, my voice of reason, my best friend, my best man in my wedding, and my hero,” he said in the heartfelt tribute. “My wife said something powerful and shows the kind of man he was. She said: ‘Tony was such a kind man. He had such a huge heart and I’ve never heard Tony say a bad or negative thing about anyone.’”

Dow’s death was prematurely announced on Tuesday after his wife, Lauren Shulkind, mistakenly notified the actor’s management team.

Dow’s manager said Shulkind, 75, was “very distraught” over the condition of her husband and believed he had been declared dead.

On Tuesday night, the actor’s son, Christopher Dow, shared an update on Facebook, saying his father was in hospice care and in “his last hours.”

The post came hours after the actor’s management team announced his death prematurely.

In a now-deleted post, the statement — from Frank Bilotta and Renee James — read, “It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning.

Tony Dow, best known for his role as big brother Wally in the classic TV sitcom “Leave It to Beaver” has died.
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Dow (top) played Wally Cleaver on the iconic sitcom.
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“Tony was a beautiful soul — kind, compassionate, funny and humble. It was truly a joy to just be around him. His gentle voice and unpretentious manner was immediately comforting and you could not help but love him. The world has lost an amazing human being, but we are all richer for the memories that he has left us.”

Dow and Shuklind announced in May that the “Still the Beaver” star was diagnosed with cancer, but did not reveal what kind.

“Dear friends and fans of Tony Dow, I have some very sad news to share with you,” Shulkind wrote at the time. “Unfortunately, Tony has once again been diagnosed with cancer. He is approaching this reality so bravely, but it is truly heartbreaking. 

“We want to thank you in advance for your caring thoughts. Our Love, Lauren & Tony.”

The Hollywood native’s health issues first surfaced in August 2021 when he was briefly hospitalized with pneumonia and had a “violent cough.”

“Tony’s spirit is positive,” Shulkind wrote on Facebook last year. “He gets his daily exercise by walking the corridors with his his nurse. If he could only get rid of that darn cough. It’s going to take some time.”

Tony Dow’s wife, Lauren Shulkind, prematurely told her husband’s management that he was dead Tuesday morning.
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“For the most part, members of his medical ‘team’ are compassionate, and we appreciate their efforts,” she added. “As well, we appreciate all of you for your thoughts and concerns. Hopefully Tony will be home soon. Poppy can’t wait to get her daddy back.”

Mathers had previously been in contact with Dow and his management team and had frequently updated fans about Dow’s condition over social media.

Dow starred as Wally, the older brother of Beaver (Mathers), in “Leave It to Beaver” from 1957 to 1963 for six seasons.

He later reprised his role in the sitcom sequel, “The New Leave It to Beaver,” in 1983. The show aired for four seasons until 1989.

Dow went on to guest-star on shows like “My Three Sons,” “Dr. Kildare,” “Lassie” and “The Greatest Show on Earth,” before taking on a recurring role on “Mr. Novak.”

Dow starred in all 234 episodes of the sitcom from 1957 to 1963.
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He also got behind the camera, having directed episodes of TV shows like “Coach,” “Babylon 5” and “Harry and the Hendersons.”

In 1965, he took a break from acting to serve in the National Guard for three years. He even tried his hand at writing and entered journalism school in the 1970s.

Dow spoke to CBS This Morning earlier this year about his iconic role on “Leave It to Beaver” and how being a child star allowed him to not be independent.

“From the time I was 11 or 12, I was told what to do. I was told on the set. I was told at home. I didn’t have control of my life,” he said.

While the role of Wally defined it, he didn’t want to be in the public eye and he fame that came with it. “I was gonna have to live with it for the rest of my life,” Dow noted. “It’s sad to be famous at 12 years old or something, and then you grow up and become a real person, and nothing’s happening for you.”

In the 1980s, he took on roles in the projects “Knight Rider,” “Square Pegs” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

The ’90s saw the filmmaker take some time behind the camera. He did some directing work on episodes for series such as “Babylon 5” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”