It was not the house she kept so immaculate on the fictional street in the fictional city of Mayfield where she lived with her husband and two sons. It was her own home in Santa Monica, California where Beaver Cleaver’s television mom Barbara Billingsley died early Saturday morning, she was 94.
June Cleaver epitomized the idealistic housewife of the 1950’s and 1960’s. She was a tall, attractive and classy lady, a good wife and a great mom. She kept her home spotless, made breakfast for her sons every morning and made sure that the family shared the dinner table and stories of their day’s events. She was soft spoken but firm and she and Ward dispensed life lessons of responsibilities and consequence in a manner that made their sons recognize and appreciate their parenting skills. They felt and expressed a deep love and respect for their sons.
June stood by her man but would come out fighting like a momma bear protecting its cubs if anyone including Ward threatened her baby boys. The Cleaver’s were role models for everything from handling a big mouth, manipulating kid like Eddie Haskell to teaching Beaver and Wally how to accept Aunt Martha’s generosity even when her gifts seemed more like punishment than reward.
Perhaps I missed an episode or two but I never saw June looking unkempt. She wore the 60’s out of those form fitting dresses and every strand of her blonde hair was always in place. She and Ward impressed this then young viewer because they were the first television parents that I saw that often told their sons they loved them and their family was one that you wanted to be a part of.
The chemistry between the cast of actors on “Leave it to Beaver” resonated with the audience. From the time the show premiered in 1957 it grabbed and held America’s attention until the show was cancelled in 1963 while still at the top of the ratings. Ms. Billingsley and the rest of the cast (minus Beaumont who died in 1982) did a “Leave it to Beaver Reunion”. In addition, Ms. Billingsley appeared as a guest on several television shows and in movies including one Batman movie before her post Beaver career.
In recent years Ms. Billingsley suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. There was only one June Cleaver and she who helped to set the tone for women and wives both on television and in real life. Many wanted to be her, but she was one of a kind, she was Beaver Cleaver’s mother; goodbye June tell Ward we said hello.