When Leave it to Beaver star Barbara Billingsley passed away in 2010, she left behind a legacy of being “America’s mom,” and that made her “Happy as a Lark.”
Billingsley played June Cleaver in the iconic 1950’s series. June, of course, was the wife of Ward and mother of Theodore “Beaver,” and Wally. The character was always perfectly put together and full of patience and grace for the man and boys in her home.
Almost as soon as the show debuted, June became the gold standard for housewives around the country. While her persona wasn’t always realistic for real-life mothers, she embodied a certain wholesome and nurturing personality that made fans feel personally connected to her—almost like she was their own mother.
Jerry Mathers, who starred as Beaver, and Tony Dow, who played Wally, spoke about her place as a motherly figure after she passed on Oct. 16, 2010. They admitted that she was similar to her TV persona in many ways. And she was thrilled about her reputation with audiences.
“Barbara was a patient advisor and teacher,” Mathers shared in a statement per CNN at the time. “And she helped me along this challenging journey through life by showing me the importance of manners and respect for others.“
“She was as happy as a lark being recognized as America’s mom,” Dow told the publication at the time. “She had a terrific life and had a wonderful impact on everybody she knew and even people she didn’t know.”
Barbara Billingsly Was a ‘Second Mother’ to the Young ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Castmembers
Portraying June onscreen and embodying her offscreen was art imitating life in reality. Billingsley once told The Courier-Journal, per MeTV, that while she was filming the series, she was also raising boys of “comparable ages.” And many of her family’s actual dilemmas “ended up on the show in one way or another.” So she was able to make Leave It to Beaver an extension of her personal life. According to the then-child actors, she pulled it off perfectly.
Ken Osman, who played the famous brown noser, Eddie Haskell, once said, “When I still see Barbara today, I call her ‘Mom.’ I love Barbara dearly. She is everybody’s mom.”
Lumpy star Frank Bank also shared details about Billingsley in his 1997 memoir Call Me Lumpy. According to him, people would often accuse Billingsley of being “phony” because no one could ever be as perfect and patient as June. But he argued that Billingsley was just as she was onscreen, only better. Furthermore, he also considered her a motherly figure. And he had unending respect for her as a person and parental figure.
“To this day, I consider Barbara my second mother,” he wrote. “She is the most wonderful, caring, thoughtful, kind, considerate person.”
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