Leave It to Beaver star Tony Dow dies at 77

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Tony Dow.
Tony Dow. AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File

Actor Tony Dow, best known for playing Wally Cleaver on the classic television show Leave It to Beaver, died on Wednesday of complications from liver cancer, his manager Frank Bilotta announced. He was 77.

Dow died at his home in Topanga, California, while receiving hospice care. His death came one day after his management team erroneously posted on Facebook that the actor had died. Dow's son, Christopher, said in a statement that "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."

Dow was born April 13, 1945, in Hollywood. His mother was a stuntwoman in western films and a body double for Clara Bow, and before he started acting, he was a diving champion. At 12 years old, Dow joined the cast of Leave It to Beaver, portraying responsible older brother Wally for six seasons. In the 1980s, Dow and the other surviving members of the Leave It to Beaver cast reunited for a TV movie and two spin-off sitcoms.

Dow appeared in guest spots on other television shows, and studied painting and psychology at the University of California Los Angeles. He was open about having clinical depression, and delivered speeches on mental health, telling audiences, "If Wally Cleaver can be depressed, anybody can be." Later in his career, Dow focused on directing television shows and creating sculptures, with his art appearing in exhibitions and galleries.

He is survived by his wife Lauren Shulkind; son Christopher; a granddaughter; and a brother.

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