'Leave It to Beaver' co-star Tony Dow dies at 77

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Actors Jerry Mathers (L) and Tony Dow, stars of the hit comedy series “Leave It To Beaver” act as presenters during a taping of the second annual TV Land Awards in Hollywood March 7, 2004. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

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July 26 (Reuters) – Actor Tony Dow, best known for his role as Wally Cleaver in the 1950s American TV hit sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” died Tuesday at age 77, his friends and management team said.

Dow, whose career in television as an actor, director and producer spanned seven decades, died on Tuesday morning, according to a statement posted to Facebook. A cause of death was not disclosed, though he and his wife, Lauren, said in May that he was suffering from a recurrence of cancer.

In “Leave It to Beaver,” Dow played the teenage older brother of the title character, Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver. Dow’s role in the show – which ran from 1957 to 1963 and depicted an idealized American family living a carefree life in a postwar suburb – made him a cultural icon.

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“The world has lost an amazing human being, but we are all richer for the memories that he has left us,” said the statement signed by members his management team, describing Dow as compassionate, funny and humble.

“Thank you 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.”

In late May, Dow shared a Facebook message thanking his fans for their well-wishes and detailing his health progress, including his experience with cancer treatment.

Dow reprised his role as Wally Cleaver in the 1980s for a spinoff movie, “Still the Beaver,” and a TV series, “The New Leave It to Beaver.” He also appeared in the daytime series “General Hospital.”

Jerry Mathers, who starred as the naive “Beaver” in the series, mourned Dow’s death in a Facebook post that included a picture of the pair from recent years.

“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,” Mathers wrote.

Dow is also credited as director for more than a dozen TV shows, including “The New Leave it to Beaver” And “Harry and the Hendersons” in the 1990s.

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Reporting by Tyler Clifford; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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