Tony Dow, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Star, Dead at 77


Actor Tony Dow never set out to be an actor. He grew up in Hollywood, and he was a competitive swimmer. One day he went to an audition with his swimming coach. His coach didn’t get the job, but Dow was cast as Wally Cleaver, the helpful boy scout big brother on the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver.”

Dow took a few acting and directing jobs after the sitcom that made him famous, but he was never able to shake the character he played as a child.

In January, Dow told CBS Sunday Morning, “I thought, this isn’t fair. I’d like to do some other stuff. I’d like to do some interesting stuff. 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.”

At first this made him sad and later angry. Eventually that anger became depression, and he struggled with depression from the age of 20 to about the age of 40.

Dow explained, “At 40 I realized how great the show was, how appreciative I should be for being in that show.” Dow learned to manage his depression by creating art, going to therapy and taking medication.

Dow’s struggle has now ended. According to a statement released from his managers, Dow has died at the age of 77. His managers, Frank Bilotta and Renee James, explained, “It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning.” They added, “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.”

His managers did not include a cause of death, but in May, Dow revealed that he was suffering from cancer.

Dow is survived by his wife, Lauren Carol Shulkind.