Hollywood and America lost one of the best mom’s on television this week with the death of Barbara Billingsley, better known as June Cleaver. Barbara Billingsley was cast into the role of June Cleaver in 1957 when “Leave It to Beaver” debuted and portrayed June through the entire run of the series. Barbara’s own real life sons have said that their mother was very much like June Cleaver. Fans heard of Barbara’s death over the weekend after she passed away at her home in Santa Monica following a long illness.
Barbara Lillian Combes was born on December 22, 1915 in Los Angeles and was raised by a single mom after her parents divorce. Barbara was also divorced from her first husband, Glenn Billingsley, and raised two sons on her own until she remarried Roy Kellino. Kellino died of a heart attack just a few months before she was cast into the role of June Cleaver. In 1959, Barbara married Bill Mortenson, a physician and they remained married until his death in 1981.
June Cleaver was the mother to Beaver (Jerry Mathers) and Wally (Tony Dow) from 1957 till the show ended in 1963. She was known as being a very kind, understanding mother who also had firmness in what she expected from the boys. Her television husband was Ward (Hugh Beaumont) who passed away in 1982. June Cleaver was always dressed nicely, even though she was a housewife. She always appeared as though she was dressed for the President to come on any day at any time for dinner.
Following the end of “Leave It to Beaver”, Barbara disappeared from the acting scene for awhile until making a cameo role in the 1980 movie “Airplane”, where she played an older lady passenger who helps a stewardess who can’t speak “jive” with two other passengers. Following that role, she returned to the June Cleaver role in the 1983 made for TV movie, “Still the Beaver”. This movie seemed to portray the darker side of Beaver’s life and included Beaver getting divorced. This was the last airing of any of the original Beaver movies or shows. In 1985 Disney released a program known as “The New Leave It to Beaver”, which was not as big of a hit as the original show was and didn’t contain the entire cast of the original show.
This classy lady who became a mother to anyone who watched the show will be missed. Barbara Billingsley or June Cleaver was the perfect mother for anyone to have and she will always be remembered as “America’s Mom”.