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Hugh Beaumont, who epitomized the always loving and almost...

HOLLYWOOD -- Hugh Beaumont, who epitomized the always loving and almost all-knowing TV father on the 'Leave It to Beaver' series, died of a heart attack while visiting his son in West Germany, family members said. He was 72.

Services were pending for the actor, who also was a part-time Methodist clergyman. He died suddenly at the home of his eldest son, Eric, 40, in Munich on Thursday.

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His sister, Gloria Bussman, said he was dead by the time a doctor arrived at the house. Beaumont also is survived by his wife, Kathryn, another son, Mark, 32, and a daughter, Kristan, 37.

Although he appeared in several films, he was best known to most Americans as Ward Cleaver, the patient and kindly father of the young Beaver and his older brother, Wally.

The series, which ran on CBS and ABC in the 1950s and '60s and is still a popular re-run attraction, also starred Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow as the two boys and Barbara Billingsley as their mother, June.

His last acting appearance was a recent taped reenactment for a television news show of several 'Leave it to Beaver' scenes with other cast members.

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Beaumont, a native of Lawrence, Kan., began his acting career after he was discovered on the 'Gateway to Hollywood' talent contest.

His movies -- highlighted by a series of Michael Shane pictures in which he played the tough private detective -- included 'Flight Lieutenant,' 'The Seventh Victim,' 'Objective Burma,' 'The Blue Dahlia,' 'Bury Me Dead,' 'Railroaded,' 'Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell,' 'Mississippi Gambler' and 'The Mole People.'

He was a successful writer as well, and sold several short stories and radio and TV screenplays.

Beaumont, who received a theology degree at the University of Southern California, worked as a clergyman and lay minister at several Methodist churches throughout Southern California.

'Sometimes my work as an actor presents a conflict with my ideals as a clergyman,' he once said in an interview.

'No money that I can earn as an actor can accomplish so much good that I would feel justified in violating my ideals to earn it,' he said. 'If the question ever arises in a serious way, of course, I would have to give up my acting.'

Beaumont, who maintained a retirement home in Minnesota, apparently never faced that dilemma. He continued his show business work - directing community theater groups -- even after suffering a stroke about 10 years ago that left his face partially paralyzed.

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