– Barbara Billingsley, who gained supermom status for her gentle portrayal of June Cleaver, the warm, supportive mother of a pair of precocious boys in "Leave it to Beaver," died Saturday. She was 94.
Billingsley, who had suffered from a rheumatoid disease, died at her home in Santa Monica, said family spokeswoman Judy Twersky.
When the show debuted in 1957, Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver, was 9, and Tony Dow, who portrayed Wally, was 12. Billingsley's character, the perfect stay-at-home 1950s mom, was always there to gently but firmly nurture both through the ups and downs of childhood.
Beaver, meanwhile, was a typical American boy whose adventures landed him in one comical crisis after another.
Billingsley's own two sons said she was pretty much the image of June Cleaver in real life, although the actress disagreed.
"She was every bit as nurturing, classy, and lovely as 'June Cleaver' and we were so proud to share her with the world," her son Glenn Billingsley said Saturday.
She did acknowledge that she may have become more like June as the series progressed.
"I think what happens is that the writers start writing about you as well as the character they created," she once said. "So you become sort of all mixed up, I think."
A wholesome beauty with a lithe figure, Billingsley began acting in her elementary school's plays and soon discovered she wanted to do nothing else.