Jane Henson, the wife of Muppet Show creator Jim Henson, has died at age 78 at her home in Greenwich, Connecticut. A puppeteer and producer, she was co-creator of the Muppets and Jim’s professional and personal partner.
Here’s what you need to know…
1. Jane and Jim Met in College
Henson, a native of New York City, met Jim while they were both freshmen students at the University of Maryland. Fittingly, they met in a puppetry class. The two became partners with their puppets almost immediately in 1954.
2. They Were at the Forefront of the TV Revolution
In 1954, Jim was offered a slot on a local NBC affiliate for a children’s show, this was the couple’s first TV show, Sam & Friends. It was groundbreaking and ahead of its time (it included a character named Harry the Hipster!) in using television monitors that allowed Jim and Jane to watch their puppets actions back in real-time. The five minute show ran twice daily for six years.
3. Jim Left to Tour Europe in the Late 1950s
It was only when Henson returned from Europe did he and Jane become romantically involved. They were married in 1959.
4. Jim and Jane had Five Children
Jane left the couple’s puppet shows to focus on motherhood. She taught legendary director Frank Oz how to replace her in her role as ‘key assistant.’ Their five children are, Lisa, Cheryl, Brian, John and Heather. It is rumored she remained in the background and uncredited working on their newly created Muppet Show.
5. She Would Return to Puppets
When her children grew older she returned to working, working on Sesame Street during the 1980s. She also began touring with a live Sesame Street show where her skill at identifying talented young puppeteers became apparent and invaluable to the Jim Henson Workshop.
6. Jim and Jane Divorced in 1986
The couple stayed close and remained active in business and in their personal lives. Jane was by Jim’s side when he passed away in 1990.
7. She was a Board Member of the Jim Henson Foundation Until she Died
The foundation teaches the art of puppetry to children, after her ex-husband’s death in 1990, she created the Jim Henson Legacy charity in his honor.
8. In her Later Years she Taught Art at the Mead School for Human Development
The school, in Connecticut, is an alternative learning school for children. Its mission statement reads:
The Mead School cultivates in children the skills and values they will need for emotionally, socially, and intellectually fulfilling lives. We believe that each child possesses innate curiosity and passion for learning, and that when these are sparked, children learn eagerly and joyously.
9. She Dedicated her Life to Philanthropic Activities
In addition to her roles with puppetry charities and foundations, Jane also served on the board for The Carter Center, a charity set up by former President Jimmy Carter to promote human rights.
10. Jane was Only Sick for a Short Time
In early March it was announced that Jane was battling terminal, paralyzing cancer. Her death was announced via her Facebook page on April 2.