Jane Henson, Co-Creator of Muppets, Dies at 79

Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013  |  Updated 7:56 AM PDT
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2013 In Memoriam: James Avery

Jane Henson in the late 1950s, with Jim Henson and Sam and Kermit from "Sam and Friends," which was created at WRC in Washington, D.C.

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Jane Nebel Henson, former wife of late Muppets creator Jim Henson, has died, according to the Jim Henson Company.

The company announced her passing with a memorial photo on the Henson.com website, featuring Jane with Kermit the Frog perched on her shoulder.

Jane Henson was 79 and died at her home in Connecticut after a "long battle" with cancer, the company said in a statement.

Henson was a fine arts education major at the University of Maryland when she met her husband-to-be, Jim, in a puppetry class.

While Jim Henson was an undergraduate, he was offered a show on Washington, D.C.'s NBC affiliate WRC. That show became "Sam and Friends" and aired before the "Huntley-Brinkley Report" and Steve Allen's "Tonight Show."

Jane Henson was a co-performer and co-creator of the show, which gave the Muppets their first audience. (And the Hensons never forgot those roots; Jane Henson's memorial picture also features the blue puppet Yorick from "Sam and Friends.")

Throughout her life, she balanced a love for fine art and education with care for the imagination-powered, eclectic Muppet movement. She studied fine art at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and after the Hensons moved to Connecticut, Jane Henson was an assistant art teacher at the Mead School for Human Development.

She remained a vital force in the development of the Muppets as well, collaborating with Jim even after the two legally separated in 1986. Jane Henson helped develop projects, including the "Muppet Show on Tour" and "Sesame Street Live" arena stage shows, and she brought art and puppetry together with the traveling museum exhibit "The Art of The Muppets," which debuted at Lincoln Center in New York in 1979.

Jane became known as a talent-spotter for new puppeteers. She also served on the board of The Jim Henson Foundation, which was founded in 1982 to promote puppetry, and helped found the National Puppetry Conference.

Jim Henson died in 1990 at 53. In 1992, Mrs. Henson funded and founded The Jim Henson Legacy,  to conserve, preserve and present the artistic contribution of Jim Henson. In 2001, she created the Jane Henson Foundation, where she continued her philanthropic work.

 

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