Paul Petersen was 26 before Donna Reed had to ask him to stop calling her ''Miss Reed''
The star had to let her on-screen son know that it was okay to call her Donna.
Loving, strong and always too funny, Donna Stone emulated the dream television mom on The Donna Reed Show. This was helped by the class and work of Donna Reed, who served as the family matriarch for the show's eight seasons on ABC. Her poise and maturity carried the show far, qualities that undoubtedly carried over from the character of Donna Stone into Donna Reed herself.
It's a sentiment echoed by Paul Petersen, who played Reed's on-screen son, Jeff Stone. Petersen remembered Reed fondly, and told the Omaha World-Herald, "I was proud to be her television son," and added, "It was a remarkable experience."
Petersen and Reed kept in touch after the show ended in 1966, and though they weren't playing family members anymore, Petersen still kept the same reverence for Reed. This admiration was exemplified when he explained to the World-Herald, "I called her Miss Reed until I was 26. That was six years after the show ended. When I wasn't calling her Miss Reed, she was Mom."
Paul also explained that it was actually Miss Reed/Mom herself who had to tell him it would be all right to address her a bit more informally. Petersen recalled that the two were having lunch at a bistro in Beverley Hills when Reed leaned over to him and said, "Paul, I think it's time you started calling me Donna."
Petersen also spoke to the L.A Times about the fondness of his relationship with Reed and his on-screen father, Carl Betz. He said that there was a warmth and understanding that was just as strong off-set as it was on. Petersen told the Los Angeles Times, "They [Reed and Carl] made a commitment to Shelley and me as surrogate parents to be on our side and be with us for the long haul. They kept that commitment up to their deaths."
However, the warm familiarity between the on-screen mother and son did not impact the respect that Petersen still held for Donna. "She was a very classy lady."
Shelley Fabares agreed with Petersen's statements, and said of Reed, "She definitely became my second mother." She also added, "She was a role model and remains so to this day." Although Reed passed away in 1986, Fabares said that Reed is never far from her mind, and explained, "I still periodically hear her voice in my head when I am making a decision about doing something. I hear her urging me on to make the stronger decision of the two. I just adored her."