Jerry Mathers on the bombshell that upended his life in 1997

An emotional breakup hit the former child star hard.

Being a child star is weird. You're trapped in amber on television in your youth, and to many viewers all over the world, you're eternally that kid. That's just the nature of the medium. When people identify you with a character on TV, day after day, year after year, the truth blends with what's broadcasted. Jaleel White is Urkel, forever. Richard Thomas will always be John-Boy to most. And, maybe more than anyone else, Jerry Mathers will always be The Beaver.

When Leave It to Beaver ended in 1963, it's not like the show disappeared from pop culture. Instead, if anything, the show's profile kept growing as older episodes were played in re-runs. The show became a totem passed through the years, and new audiences discovered the show for decades to come.

However, the show's star, Jerry Mathers, did disappear. He stopped acting almost entirely, popping up occasionally in cameo appearances, mostly in wink-nudge references to his most famous character. 

Things changed, though in the '80s. Ready to finally, fully capitalize on his work as a kid, Mathers starred in Still the Beaver, which became The New Leave It to Beaver. He was among old friends on the new show.  He had a new wife, Rhonda Ghering. According to Mathers in his book ...And Jerry Mathers as The Beaver, life was good.

But then came what the actor described as a bombshell.

"My years in social and professional exile had already damaged our marriage beyond repair," he wrote. "Rhonda had married me at the start of The New Leave it To Beaver. Living with a social and professional recluse was not in her original plan. Rhonda wanted out. People think being married to a celebrity is fun, then they get fed up with the hassles of it. Rhonda found someone else.

After the divorce, Rhonda Gehring told the National Enquirer "Jerry is NOT Ward Cleaver. He is a great guy and a good husband and father but he is no Ward Cleaver."

In his book, Mathers responds, "Wow! This was so weird to me. How can I compete with a fictional character? My own wife was seeking the type of love demonstrated by my fictional father to my fictional mother."

Life, it seems, is truly stranger than fiction.

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13 Comments

Jimtypes 27 days ago
Back in the 1980's I worked at a TV station that carried the New Leave it to Beaver show. For the premiere promotion, my friend, the Programmer sat at the head table with Mathers and Dow. Barbara served cookies from a tray. I was in TV heaven, The Beav was a favorite of mine since I was a kid. They were all real, and nice people.
Lavere 1 month ago
I still watch Leave it Beaver. I love that show.
MadMadMadWorld Lavere 1 month ago
I only wish I had such an idyllic childhood as the Cleaver family. The worst thing to happen to Beaver was getting his head caught in an iron fence, or getting trapped for a short time in the principal's office, or in the most famous episode, in a soup bowl placed in an advertisement! LOL
MadMat2102 1 month ago
Sounds like his ex-wife wanted life to imitate art... LITERALLY!
GEMof72 1 month ago
Wow, 🙏🏾🙏🏾 She was probably in it for the fame.
obectionoverruled 1 month ago
Life on the set ain’t like life off of it. Stars like Beaver should just rest on their laurels for the body of work they produced as entertainers at the time, and call it a day.
SparkleMotion 1 month ago
Well....he's been happily married a lot of years now and every time I've seen an interview or read comments on videos about him, he seems to be a really nice guy and also well adjusted considering he was a huge child star.
jmworacle 1 month ago
Some of my fondest memories spending time with my Grand Daddy watching episodes of "Leave It to Beaver."
Pacificsun 1 month ago
I'm not sure we really needed to know that story. I think the line should be drawn at what's pertinent to the Series itself, and while he's in it. But a second marriage explained for the reason it was is just excessive. Why not give the gentleman his due and pay to read his biography.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
That’s very sad 😔 and I get Rhonda struggling with being married to Beaver, but he wasn’t going to be Ward lol
FrankensteinLover 1 month ago
I never knew Jerry was married before his Wife now, love this website so much and learning the back stories.
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