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Tony Dow, Wally Cleaver on 'Leave It to Beaver,' dies at 77 a day after his death was announced prematurely

Dow, the actor and director best known for playing the reliable older brother on the iconic 1950s and '60s television show, told fans in May that his cancer had returned.

"Leave It to Beaver" actor Tony Dow has died following a recent cancer diagnosis, his family and representatives confirmed Wednesday. He was 77.

Dow’s manager, Frank Bilotta, confirmed the death, telling NBC News that Dow had been diagnosed with liver cancer.

His son, Christopher Dow, said in a statement on his father’s official Facebook page: “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.

"My wife said something powerful and shows the kind of man he was. She said: 'Tony was such a kind man. He had such a huge heart and I’ve never heard Tony say a bad or negative thing about anyone.'”

Dow's management team had announced that he died on Tuesday, but later in the day it said that the announcement was inaccurate and that he was still alive in hospice.

"This is a difficult time. 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," Christopher Dow wrote Tuesday after the confusion.

Image: Tony Dow as "Wally" in "Leave it to Beaver."
Tony Dow as Wally in "Leave It to Beaver."ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Dow told fans in May that his cancer, which he had treated previously, had returned. He, his family and his management team kept fans updated about his condition in several Facebook posts.

"Hi Guys … how are you all doing? As you probably know I’ve had some health issues recently and I wanted to keep you up-to-date. I’m beginning Immunotherapy and it seems to be working," Dow wrote May 29. "I can now get up and walk without assistance and feel improvement every day."

He went on to thank his fans for their thoughts, prayers and well-wishes.

"It’s amazing how the world could change with more love and respect," he wrote. "Let’s try our best to 'make this world a better place' for our friends, families, and even our adversaries."

Dow, born in Hollywood, California, was introduced to the entertainment industry at an early age. His mother, Muriel Montrose, was a stuntwoman and double for the actor Clara Bow. His father, John Stevens, was a designer and contractor who built homes for people in the film industry, according to Dow's biography.

"Leave It to Beaver," which aired from 1957 to 1963, centered on the typical idealized family of the time as it followed the adventures of mischievous young Beaver; his practical brother, Wally; their devious friend Eddie Haskell; and their long-suffering but understanding parents, played by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont.

The show’s writers, Bob Mosher and Joe Connelly, based the characters on their own children.

In addition to acting, Dow was a director, writer and producer working on several episodes of “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Coach,” “Babylon 5” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and an episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

In the 1980s, he returned as Wally for the TV movie “Still the Beaver” and the series “The New Leave It to Beaver,” for which he also directed five episodes and wrote one.

Dow is survived by his wife, Lauren, and his son, Christopher, from his first marriage, with Carol Marlow.