'Leave It to Beaver' actor Tony Dow dies at 77

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July 26 (UPI) — Actor Tony Dow, best known for his role in the iconic 1950s television sitcom Leave It to Beaver, died on Tuesday at the age of 77, his management team said.

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning,” Dow’s managers, Frank Bilotta and Renee James, said in a statement on Facebook.

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“Tony was a beautiful soul — kind, compassionate, funny and humble. It was truly a joy to just be around him,” the statement said. “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.”

A cause of death was not released by the family, but Dow had said in May that he had been diagnosed with cancer. A Facebook post this past Wednesday said that the illness “has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs.”

Dow was recognized by a generation of fans as Wally Cleaver, the older brother of title character Beaver Cleaver, in Leave It to Beaver.

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The sitcom, depicting the everyday life of a suburban American family, ran from 1957 to 1963, and is often considered one of the 20th century’s most iconic programs.

TIME Magazine additionally named it one of the top 100 TV shows of all time.

Cast in the show at just 12 years old, Dow became a household name to millions of American families who watched the show every week, and helped to launch his career.

In the decades following the show, though, Dow revealed that he often felt weighed down by the pressure of his childhood stardom, and spoke candidly about his battles with depression.

“From the time I was 11 or 12, I was being told what to do,” Dow said in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning this past January. “I was told on the set, I was told at home, I didn’t have control of my life.”

He described the moment when his mother told him that he had booked the part on Leave It to Beaver.

“I took a bite of my hamburger, I took a sip of my malt, and I said, ‘Okay.’ And there went my life,” Dow said.

The actor additionally told the outlet that he often found himself being unable to leave the character behind, even as an adult.

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“I was going to have to live with [Leave It to Beaver] for the rest of my life,” Dow said. “I thought, ‘This isn’t fair.’ I’d like to do some other stuff, I’d like to do some interesting stuff.”

Despite this, Dow did go on to have a career after the show, appearing in a variety of other television roles.

This includes a main spot in the 1960s soap opera Never Too Young. He would also try his hand at directing, getting behind the camera for an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Paul Sorvino arrives outside at the premiere of Burnt at MoMA in New York City on October 20, 2015. The “Goodfellas” actor died at age 83 on July 25. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo