He doesn’t do much television anymore and hasn’t starred in any movies, so we didn't watch him age, but Jerry Mathers, at 69, definitely qualifies as a senior citizen. The child star was just nine years old when he became Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver in the family-friendly Leave It to Beaver sitcom that debuted in 1959 and subsequently, in reruns, has never been off the air.

In 1963, when The Beaver's mid-teen testosterone levels were steadily increasing, the show concluded. Perhaps Beaver was never meant to grow up, go on dates or curse on the show - it just wouldn't seem right. Mathers’ iconic portrayal of a young, 1950s-era middle-class boy from the burbs who exuded innocence and naïveté was the focus of the show and its producers likely knew that change wasn't good in this case.

Having his voice change while on the air just wasn't in the cards.

Football and philosophy

Though he had dabbled with acting through the years, Mathers was anything but a typical Hollywood actor. After the hit show, the former child actor played football and joined his school’s track team, earned a degree in philosophy from Berkeley and served in the Air Force and National Guard.

Soldier to businessman

After his discharge he worked as a banker, a real estate agent and a food caterer among other things. He eventually created a successful business that catered to Hollywood casts and crews. His catering business fed up to 200 people at a time and Mathers says he was always around food. It was his culinary success that nearly killed him, according to an interview taped this month by Fox News.

Mathers’ weight soared and he was eventually diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and very high cholesterol. After a fateful annual medical checkup in 1997, Mathers wondered if he would ever get the chance to grow old in real life after doctors warned him that he could die of sugar diabetes within a few years if he didn’t change his ways.

After the health scare, Mathers went to work on getting fit and dropped 55 pounds from his 5’7” frame. He credits diet and exercise, including walking about 5 miles each day, with improving his condition to a pre-diabetes diagnosis.

"I was around food all the time and I was a very good cook. Of course, that entailed sitting down with people so I was sometimes eating 5-6 full meals a day… I was making a lot of money, everything was going great, and everyone around me was at least as fat as I was,” Mathers told Fox News.

Mathers says show ideally realistic

Mathers fondly remembers the Leave It to Beaver show and thinks that in many ways it was realistic, if ideally so. After all, most of us have to deal with an Eddie Haskell character at some point, and we all wish we had a cool big brother like Wally (Tony Dow) to get us out of tight spots.

Today, Mathers is an activist, traveling the country giving speeches and testimony on the dangers of diabetes. “I’m not cured. This is something I have to deal with all the time. And I’m hoping that by going out to educate people on diabetes, I can save my fans.”

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