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SIOUX CITY | One of TV’s favorite kids got his start in Sioux City.
Jerry Mathers, the star of “Leave it to Beaver,” was born June 2, 1948, in Sioux City.
His father, Norman C. Mathers, also born in Sioux City, was an East High School sports standout. He played basketball at Morningside College, interrupted his studies to serve in the Army Air Corps, then returned to get his bachelor’s degree in history and physical education. In 1947, he married Marilyn Bright and they moved to Rock Rapids, Iowa, where Norm taught. Jerry, however, was born in Sioux City.
Shortly thereafter, the family moved to California where dad got his master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and later worked in school administration.
That storied acting career? It began when Jerry was 2. He appeared in a Pet Condensed Milk commercial with Ed Wynn on the “Colgate Comedy Hour.” That led to more work in television, then his film debut in 1954 in “This is My Love.” That led to a featured role in the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Trouble With Harry,” starring John Forsythe and Shirley MacLaine.
In 1957, Jerry landed the title role in “Leave it to Beaver.” The show ran for six seasons and became a cornerstone in sitcom history.
A 1982 TV movie, “Still the Beaver,” did so well in the ratings a new edition of “Beaver” was launched. Called “The New Leave it to Beaver,” the series lasted 108 episodes and helped Mathers diversify into directing.
In 2007, Mathers made his Broadway debut in “Hairspray” as Wilbur Turnblad.
Since then, he has been a spokesperson for diabetes awareness, PhRMA and its Partnership for Prescription Assistance program and the state of the American family. Additionally, Mathers does personal appearances, commercials and radio shows.
He last appeared in Sioux City in 2012 to speak at the Sioux City Diocese's Bishop's Dinner for Catholic Schools.