Leave It To Beaver star Tony Dow has died at 77 a day after his management team prematurely announced his death while he was still alive in a hospice on Tuesday.
His management confirmed Wednesday that the actor has now passed away.
‘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,’ the statement said.
It follows an incorrect statement, which was credited to Frank Bilotta and Renee James — who described themselves as his managers — claiming the actor had already died, but his son Christopher Dow later clarified that he was ‘in his last hours’ to Fox News Digital.
‘This is a difficult time,’ Christopher said in a statement shared on his father’s Facebook account. ‘Dad is at home, under hospice care, and in his last hours. My wife and I are by his side along with many friends that have visited. He has a fighting heart.’
TMZ reports that his manager claims the confusion stemmed from Tony’s wife Lauren Dow, who was ‘very distraught’ at the time, and believed that her husband had died on Tuesday.
Following the incorrect death announcement, Dow’s former costar Jerry Mathers — who played the title character on Leave It To Beaver — shared an emotional tribute on Facebook in which he wrote that Dow’s reported death ‘leaves an empty place in my heart.’
Tony Dow dead at 77: Leave It To Beaver star passes away a day after star’s management FALSELY announced his death on Facebook. He’s pictured in 2007 with costar Jerry Mathers, who paid tribute to him
Kind words: ‘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,’ Mathers wrote on Facebook before the announcement had been corrected; seen in 1957
The announcement came just two months after Down announced in May that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
A subsequent Facebook post from television producer Jay Kernis included an update from Tuesday afternoon.
‘I just phoned Lauren Dow to offer condolences and she said someone has made a terrible mistake,’ he wrote. ‘Tony is with hospice and breathing. Still alive. I know, what a strange day!’
Kernis included an old photo of the two sitting outside under stage lights.
Another post from ABC7 entertainment reporter George Pennacchio cleared up some of the confusion.
After speaking with Dow’s wife Lauren, he wrote that she was ‘understandably distraught and grief-stricken about what’s been going on with Tony’s health battle these past months.’
The actor, who was under hospice care at their home, had suffered health setbacks on Monday night, and Lauren, who said she had been feeling ‘a little fuzzy’ lately, had ‘inferred that Tony had passed away to some people closest to her and the word quickly spread.’
Welcome news: ‘I just phoned Lauren Dow to offer condolences and she said someone has made a terrible mistake,’ wrote produce Jay Kernis. ‘Tony is with hospice and breathing. Still alive. I know, what a strange day!’ However, it was then confirmed he died a day later.
Playing telephone: The actor’s wife Lauren told ABC7’s George Pennachio that she had been feeling ‘a little fuzzy’ lately, and she had apparently ‘inferred that Tony had passed away’ to close contacts, ‘and the word quickly spread’
Lauren reportedly said she felt ‘foolish’ about the announcement, and said ‘it is of my own doing.’
She added that she ‘loves and adores’ her husband with all her hear, and she ended with an apology for the confusion.
Prior to the correction, Dow’s costar Jerry Mathers shared a moving tribute to his costar and friend.
‘It is with the utmost sadness I learned this morning of my co-star and lifelong friend Tony Dow’s passing,’ he initially wrote in his Facebook post before Dow was reported to still be alive. ‘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,’ he continued.
‘Tony was so grateful for all of the love and support from our fans across the world,’ he added. ‘My wife Teresa and I send our deepest condolences to his wife Lauren, his family and to all of those who knew and loved him. The world may have lost a star today, but the heavens gained another.’
The incorrect Facebook post announcing Dow’s death, which was credited to Frank Bilotta and Renee James, who referred to themselves as his management team, called Tony a ‘beautiful soul.’
‘It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning,’ it began.
‘Tony was so grateful for all of the love and support from our fans across the world,’ Mathers wrote; seen during Leave It To Beaver’s run
Old school: Jerry Mathers (L) added, ‘The world may have lost a star today, but the heavens gained another.’ He’s seen in character as Beaver with Dow as Wally during the 1960–1961 season
Heartfelt: ‘Tony was a beautiful soul — kind, compassionate, funny and humble. It was truly a joy to just be around him,’ his management team Frank Bilotta and Renee James wrote, before news broke that their client was still alive
Veteran star: Dow played Wally Cleaver for the entirety of Leave It To Beaver’s six-year run, from 1957 to 1963. He reprised his role in the 1980s in a reunion movie and series The New Leave It To Beaver, but last year revealed he struggled with depression after being typecast
‘Tony was a beautiful soul — kind, compassionate, funny and humble. It was truly a joy to just be around him,’ they continued. ‘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. From the warm reminiscences of Wally Cleaver to those of us fortunate enough to know him personally — thank you Tony.’
They also offered thanks for ‘the reflections of a simpler time, the laughter, the friendship and for the feeling that you were a big brother to us all.’
‘We will miss you,’ Bilotta and James concluded while calling themselves his ‘dear friends.’
Dow has been married to his wife Lauren Shulkind for 42 years, and he also has a son Christopher from his first marriage to Carol Marlow, whom he was married to from 1969 to 1980. He has a living brother, and a granddaughter from Christopher.
The Los Angeles native and his wife previously said in May that they were heartbroken over his cancer diagnosis, TMZ reported, and were thankful in advance for prayers from fans. Dow did not name the type of cancer he had been diagnosed with.
The actor–turned–director dealt with health problems in August of 2021, when he landed in the hospital while battling pneumonia, TMZ reported, noting that he had to spend 24 hours in the emergency room due to a surge in the coronavirus’ Delta strain at the time.
Lauren told the outlet that Dow did not have COVID-19, as he tested negative for the virus five times.
Bad news: Dow previously revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer in May. The actor is pictured with his wife Lauren, whom he married in June 1980
Family: Dow has a son, Christopher, and his granddaughter Tyla (both pictured), as well as a living brother
Iconic series: Dow played the role of Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver in all 234 episodes of the show from 1957 to 1963
‘On behalf of Tony and myself we thank you for your concern for him,’ she said.
Last week, Dow’s Facebook account shared an update on his condition, calling it ‘… a rollercoaster of ups and downs as Tony continues his fight with cancer. Tony has been in and out of the hospital with various complications and treatments.’
Dow, who was born in Hollywood, played the role of Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver in all 234 episodes of the show from 1957 to 1963 alongside Jerry Mathers, and late stars Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley and Ken Osmond.
Although the focus was initially on the title character, Dow’s older brother took on a greater prominence as he aged into a teen heartthrob.
He reprised the role of Wally Cleaver for the 1983 TV film Still The Beaver, a 1987 episode of The Love Boat and The New Leave It To Beaver TV series from 1983–1989.
Big brother: The actor who played Wally Cleaver appeared on the famed show with Jerry Mathers (front) and late stars Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley who played June and Ward (back)
He has also appeared on TV shows including Lassie, Adam-12, Mod Squad, Knight Rider, Charles in Charge and Murder, She Wrote.
The former child star put his acting career on hold in the late 1960s when he spent multiple years in the National Guard.
The TV veteran has also worked extensively as a director, having helmed multiple episodes of shows including Harry And The Hendersons, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Swamp Thing and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids: The TV Show.
His most recent acting work was from 2015 and 2016, when he made two guest appearances on the TV series Suspense, a revival of the late-’40s and early-’50s anthology series, which was in turn inspired by the classic radio thriller series of the same name.
Prior to that, he poked fun at his origins as a child star when he appeared as himself in the David Spade comedy Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, which was released in 2003.
In addition to his show business endeavors, Dow focused on sculpting for decades, with his work showcased in art exhibitions worldwide, according to his website.
In 2008, he was one of only three sculptors from the United States whose art was exhibited at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, according to Deadline.
His work, which often involved thin, contorted figures, bore a resemblance to sculptures by the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, though he favored a more abstract style.
Still going: His most recent acting work was from 2015 and 2016, when he made two guest appearances on the revived TV anthology series Suspense; seen in 2021 in Parsippany, New Jersey
Having a laugh: Prior to that, he poked fun at his origins as a child star when he appeared as himself in the David Spade comedy Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, which was released in 2003; seen in 2010 in Coconut Creek, Florida
Together again: Dow and Mathers were reunited in 2010 in LA at a PaleyFest event in honor of the series
Dow earlier this year spoke with CBS Sunday Morning, saying that he struggled with depression over being typecast after finding fame early in life as Wally on Leave It To Beaver.
‘I was gonna have to live with it for the rest of my life,’ he said. ‘I thought: This isn’t fair. You know? I mean, I’d like to do some other stuff. I’d like to do some interesting stuff. You know, 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.’
He opened up about how he became angry, adding that ‘anger — if it’s untreated — anger turns to depression.
‘Depression isn’t something you can say “Cheer up!” about,’ he said. ‘You know, it’s a very powerful thing. And it’s had a lot of effect on my life.’
Dow said that along with undergoing therapy and taking medication, his work with sculpting has had a therapeutic impact in his depression battle.
‘I’ve got it under control pretty much.’ he said. ‘You know, I think people should take the leap of faith that they can feel better.’
Black-and-white: Ken Osmond and Tony Dow in a scene from Leave it to Beaver in 1957
Bad times: Dow earlier this year spoke with CBS Sunday Morning, saying that he struggled with depression over being typecast after finding fame early in life as Wally on Leave It to Beaver
Relaxing: Dow was pictured reading in a shot posted to his Instagram by his wife Lauren