The cast now
Mathers' television mom, Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver), died last year at age 94. "She was like your favorite teacher," Mathers recalled. "She was the sweetest person and she was the nicest person. I'd always call her on her birthday and she'd call me on mine."
His television dad, Hugh Beaumont (Ward Cleaver), died in 1982.
Mathers remains good friends with the rest of the cast, including Tony Dow (big brother Wally), who became a sculptor after his Hollywood directing career wound down, and Ken Osmond (the weasely Eddie Haskell), a retired Los Angeles police officer. Frank Bank (Wally's friend Lumpy Rutherford) is now an investment adviser who handles some of Mathers' retirement accounts. Stephen Talbot (Beaver's friend Gilbert Bates) is now a PBS documentary filmmaker.
In 2007, when he was 59, Mathers made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical Hairspray as Wilbur Turnblad, Edna Turnblad's husband. The dancing and singing was physically demanding with two matinees a week. If he hadn't improved his health and lost weight he wouldn't have been able to accept the role, he said. "That's the pinnacle for actors," he said. "It was really fun, and it's something I really wanted to do. It's like the cherry on top of the soda."
These days, he stays busy with acting work and personal appearances, where he talks about television in the 1950s and how it has changed. "I don't think a lot of people realize the influence TV has on our kids," he said. "Kids take a lot of their cues from it in their dress and their conduct."
Mathers married his companion of five years, Teresa Modnick, this year. It is his third marriage. He has three children: Noah, 33, who does sound work for television and movies; Mercedes, 29, who works in human resources for a reality television company; and Gretchen, 26, a school administrator.
A second book is in the works for Mathers (his first, And Jerry Mathers as the Beaver, was published in 1998), which will catch people up with his life as well as get the word out about diabetes. "The people I'm really trying to reach," he said, "are the people who were like me and thought they didn't have to worry about it. I found out how wrong I was."
Kitty Bennett is a news researcher and writer based in St. Petersburg, Fla.