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Jane Henson, Co-Creator of the Muppets, Dies of Cancer

The mother of beloved puppet franchise, the Muppets, has passed away at age 78.

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Jane Nebel Henson, wife to Jim Henson and co-creator of the Muppets, has passed at the age of 78. She died in her Connecticut home yesterday following a battle with cancer.

Jane met Jim Henson in a puppetry class at the University of Maryland in 1954; when Jim was offered a television spot on their local NBC affiliate shortly thereafter, he asked Jane to join him as a co-performer and creator. The two attracted a great deal of attention with their first show, Sam and Friends, and were invited to perform on many popular variety shows.

After Jane graduated in 1955, she continued to work with Jim as a puppet designer and business partner. The pair married in 1959 and would have five children over the next eleven years: Lisa (1960), Cheryl (1961), Brian (1963), John (1965), and Heather (1970). Jane contributed a great deal to the Jim Henson Company in the time that followed, working on The Muppet Show and several touring productions, as well as scouting puppeteer talent.

In 1986, four years before Jim’s death, Jane was legally separated from her former husband, but founded The Jim Henson Legacy in 1992 to preserve his contributions to the world of art and puppetry. She also established the Jane Henson Foundation in 2001 to foster her philanthropic work, and co-founded The National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center to discover new performers and encourage their work.

The Muppets and The Muppet Show have been owned by Disney since 1999, while Sesame Street and its characters belong to Sesame Workshop and the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock remain part of the Jim Henson Company.