Actor Tony Dow, best known for his role as Wally Cleaver on the classic sitcom Leave It to Beaver, died on Wednesday at the age of 77.
Dow was still in hospice care Tuesday when his death was prematurely announced. “Tony’s wife Lauren, who was very distraught, had notified us that Tony had passed and asked that we notify all his fans,” according to a statement on his Facebook page. “As we are sure you can understand, this has been a very trying time for her. We have since received a call from Tony’s daughter-in-law saying that while Tony is not doing well, he has not yet passed. Tony’s son Christopher and his daughter-in-law Melissa have also been by his side comforting him, and we will keep you posted on any future updates.”
But on Wednesday, Dow’s management issued a new statement confirming that the actor had died, writing: “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.”
Jerry Mathers, who played Dow’s TV brother Theodore Cleaver (aka “The Beaver”) posted the following heartfelt tribute to his own Facebook page following the initial announcement: “It is with the utmost sadness I learned this morning of my co-star and lifelong friend Tony Dow’s passing. He was not only my brother on TV, but in many ways in life as well. Tony leaves an empty place in my heart that won’t be filled. He was always the kindest, most generous, gentle, loving, sincere, and humble man, that it was my honor and privilege to be able to share memories together with for 65 years.”
In addition to playing one of pop culture’s most iconic older brothers — a role he played from 1957 to 1963, then reprised in The New Leave It to Beaver from 1983 to 1989 — Dow’s career included high-profile appearances on shows like Diagnosis Murder, Knight Rider, Lassie and Mod Squad.