Jerry Mathers: Will Always Be the Beaver

Jerry Mathers seen as the Beaver in an early episode of Leave It To Beaver.

Jerry Mathers was born Gerald P. Mathers, on June 2, 1948 in Sioux City, Iowa. He has been in show business for 53 years, since being a department store model at the age of two. He appeared on an episode of Ozzie and Harriet at the age of four and on a I Love Lucy episode at the age of five in 1953.

I watched the very first episode of Leave It To Beaver this morning. His teacher gave him a note to take home to his parents, but Beaver was afraid they were going to expel him from school and didn’t give them the note.

The next day his teacher found the note under his desk and asked him why he didn’t give the note to his parents. Beaver made up a story about their house being on fire. Beaver eventually found out the note was about the teacher asking for permission, of his parents for Beaver to play Smokey the Bear in a school play.

He had an uncredited role in Son of Paleface movie in 1952. He then appeared in the movies Men Of the Fighting Lady and This Is My Love in 1954. Mathers was seen in six other movies between 1955-1958 and had been in a total of nine movies by the age of 10.

Mathers was nine years old when he first appeared in Leave It To Beaver in 1957 and would be 15 years old, by the time Leave It To Beaver ended its six-year run in 1963.

The show has appeared in 80 countries and in 40 languages. Mathers says the show was called “The Happy Boy and His Family in Japan and that fans would come up to him and say “Hi Happy Boy”.

 

Beaver shown trapped in a cup of soup in one of the most famous episodes of Leave It To Beaver.

 

There was a rumor in 1969 that Mathers had been killed in Vietnam. He had served in the Air National Guard, but had never left the country.

He and his TV brother Tony Dow became the first two non-athletes to appear on a Wheaties box.

Mathers took the loss of Barbara Billingsley very hard and had this to say about her after her death:  I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend and lifetime mentor Barbara Billingsley. She will live in the hearts of her fans as a wonderful actress and be remembered by her friends as a gracious lady. She will be deeply missed by all of her family, friends, fans and most especially by me.

He also sad Barbara Billingsley was as nice in person, as she appeared on the show. He also said she taught him good manners:  Well, you know, Barbara was very much on manners, so she taught me a lot of manners. I was always a rambunctious little boy, and so when we go places [a lot of times], she would walk [of course, as a lady] very slowly, and I would sometimes try to dash ahead of her, and she would always grab me by the little hairs right there in the back of my neck, and she would say, ‘Ladies first!’ And I would always say, ‘OK, oh, but I wanted to make sure nobody was going to hurt you, you know?’ No, no! She said, ‘Ladies first!’, and she pulled me back. She had a way of teaching manners that stuck with you.

Mathers has been married three times and is currently married to Teresa Modnick, who he married in 2011.

It was learned by Mathers in 1996, that he had diabetes.

Jerry Mathers may look older now but you can still tell he used to be the Beaver.

 

His career has been tied to the Beaver character, since he joined the cast and he appeared in all 235 episodes of Leave It To Beaver and then another 101 episodes of The New Leave It To Beaver show, plus also appeared in the TV movie Still The Beaver. That is 337 episodes of shows or movies connected with the Beaver.

After Leave It To Beaver left the air Mathers only appeared in only one episode of ten television series, in the last 50 years.

He has had a variety of jobs in his working career. He worked in real estate, banking, catering, Mathers actually used a cleaver as a butcher with his catering company, so Beaver Cleaver was using a cleaver to prepare meat.

My son was at a Portland (Oregon)  Beavers baseball game a few years ago, where Mathers was signing autographs. Another play on words with Beaver signing autographs for the Beavers baseball team.

No matter what other roles Mathers may take in the coming years we will always remember him best, from the years he appeared on Leave It To Beaver. In summation, he will always be the Beaver to us.

Mathers is now 65 years old. It is hard to believe that the Beaver is collecting Social Security checks now, but time marches on, much too fast for most of us.

50 years have passed since Leave It To Beaver was shown on regular network television, but it is still being seen and enjoyed by those of us who remember the show and hope it will be enjoyed by generations to come, so the kids of the future will know that families used to eat together back in the 50’s and 60’s.

 

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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