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'Leave It to Beaver' star Tony Dow is still alive, despite statement from his management saying he died

The actor and director, best known for playing stalwart older brother Wally Cleaver to Jerry Mathers’ Beaver Cleaver, was still in hospice care Tuesday.
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
/ Source: Variety

EDITOR’S NOTE (July 26, 2022, 6:30 p.m. ET): Because of incorrect information distributed by the management team for the actor Tony Dow, NBC News published in error an obituary for Dow on Tuesday morning, written by Variety. As this article explains, Dow is in hospice but is alive.

Tony Dow, the actor and director best known for playing Wally Cleaver in the iconic series “Leave It to Beaver,” is still alive, his family said, despite a statement from his management team Tuesday saying he had died.

Dow's official Facebook page posted an announcement of the "passing of our beloved Tony this morning," but the post has since been deleted.

The actor's son, Christopher Dow, told NBC News in a text message Thursday afternoon that his father is still "on hospice and in his last hours."

"He has family and friends surrounding him," Christopher Dow said. "Thank you for keeping us in your prayers during this difficult time."

A further Facebook post to Dow's official page from his management team attributed the confusion to miscommunication.

Dow was born in Hollywood, California — his mother was an early stuntwoman and double for Clara Bow. He was a Junior Olympics diving champion but didn’t have much showbiz experience when he tagged along with a friend and ended up auditioning for and winning the role of Wally.

“Leave It to Beaver” began airing in 1957 and ran until 1963. The popular black-and-white sitcom centered on the typical idealized family of the time, following 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, incorporating such details as Wally’s constant hair-combing that they observed in their own teenagers. As the show came to an end, Wally was about to start college, while Beaver was ready for high school.

Dow returned in the 1980s 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.

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

He moved into writing, producing and directing while continuing to act and helmed 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.”

After “Leave It to Beaver,” Dow appeared on series including “General Hospital,” “Mr. Novak,” “Never Too Young,” “Lassie,” “Love, American Style,” “Square Pegs” and “The Love Boat,” on which he played himself. He also played himself in the 2003 comedy “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star,” which featured cameos of dozens of former young actors, and he appeared in the John Landis skit comedy feature “The Kentucky Fried Movie.”

Dow battled depression in his 20s, making the self-help video “Beating the Blues” to help others, and later survived two bouts of cancer. He also became a sculptor and started a construction company.