Barbara Billingsley, best known as the “ever-sweet, ever-helpful suburban stay-at-home mom,” June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver, passed away on Saturday in her home at the age of 94. A family spokesperson says that Billingsley died of polymyalgia, a rheumatoid disease. Her family says that she had been suffering from the illness and in poor health in recent years.
Billingsley played the well-known June Cleaver from 1957-1963 (and of course in decades of reruns), and admitted 40 years later that June Cleaver was a “picture-perfect” reflection of the times, wearing pearls and high heels to baking cookies and maintaining the Cleaver household pristinely. But June was also no pushover, and remains famous to this day with uncountable references to her in pop culture. Billingsley is quoted as saying she would never take part in a role that would poke fun at June: “She’s been too good to me to play anything like that,” she said.
Following Leave it to Beaver, played a role in the movie Airplane!, and then had several guest appearances on TV shows like Mork and Mindy, Roseanne, and Murphy Brown.
Check out the video below from CNN – Don Lemon talks to Tony Dow, who played June’s son Wally about the loss of an American TV treasure:
Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver, released a statement with nothing but praise and admiration for Billingsley as well: “She will live in the hearts of her fans as a wonderful actress and be remembered by her friends as a gracious lady. Barbara was a patient advisor and teacher. She helped me along this challenging journey through life by showing me the importance of manners, and respect for others. She will be deeply missed by all of her family, friends, fans and most especially by me.”
Well said, Beaver. Did (or do you still) watch Billingsley perfectly portray June Cleaver of the hit show?