Barbara Billingsley, known to millions of TV fans as the pearls-wearing housewife June Cleaver on the classic sitcom 'Leave it to Beaver,' has passed away at the age of 94.
A family spokeswoman said Billingsley died of polymyalgia, a rheumatoid disease, at her home in Santa Monica, Calif.
In a statement, her TV son, Jerry Mathers, said, "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."
Even though Billingsley is probably best known as June, she actually had a long movie career before donning the apron. A lot of roles, actually, often in mysteries, comedies, and dramas, including 'Shadow on the Wall,' 'Trial Without Jury,' 'Dial 1119,' and a ton of uncredited roles in the late '40s and early '50s. And she was a regular on a couple of TV series before 'Beaver,' 'Professional Father' and 'The Brothers.'
Billingsley also made appearances on 'The Abbott and Costello Show,' 'The Long Wolf,' 'Schlitz Playhouse,' 'The Loretta Young Show,' 'The Danny Thomas Show,' 'Panic,' 'The F.B.I.,' 'Silver Spoons,' 'The Love Boat,' 'The New Mike Hammer,' 'Parker Lewis Can't Lose,' 'Murphy Brown,' 'Muppet Babies,' 'Empty Nest,' and many others. She even recreated the June Cleaver role for an episode of 'Roseanne.'
In 1980, 'Airplane' introduced Billingsley to a whole new generation.
A few years after that, Billingsley returned to Mayfield with Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow for the reunion movie 'Still the Beaver.' That movie led to a new cable series about the Cleavers and their friends, 'The New Leave it to Beaver,' which lasted from 1983 to1989. In a cute bit of casting, she played Aunt Martha in the 1997 big-screen version of the sitcom (Janine Turner played June).
In 2007, the cast reunited on 'Good Morning America' for the show's 50th anniversary:
Billingsley is survived by two sons.
As I say almost every time that a classic TV or movie star passes away, a whole era is vanishing it's been a particularly bad few weeks for celebrities, as we've also seen the deaths of people like Stephen J. Cannell, Tony Curtis, Gloria Stuart, Harold Gould, and Kevin McCarthy.
Here's hoping that TV Land or Retro TV does a marathon of 'Leave it to Beaver' episodes soon. RIP Barbara. You had a long life.