Jane Henson, Who Helped Create Muppets With Husband Jim, Dies at 78

Jane Henson dead

Jane Nebel Henson, who partnered with her husband Jim Henson to launch the Muppets and worked to preserve his artistic legacy, died April 2 of cancer in Conn. She was 78.

Born in Queens, N.Y., she met Jim Henson in a puppetry class at the U. of Maryland, and began working with him as a performer, puppet designer and builder when they were offered a spot on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. while they were still undergraduates.

The Muppets made their first appearance on their show “Sam and Friends,” which aired before the “Huntley-Brinkley Report” and “The Tonight Show” with Steve Allen, where their signature puppets made their first national guest appearance.

They were married in 1959, and Jane gave birth to Lisa, Cheryl, Brian and John in the next five years and Heather in 1970.

As the Jim Henson Company grew, she actively participated in the organization, collaborating with her husband on projects including “The Art of the Muppets” traveling museum exhibit and “The Muppet Show on Tour” and “Sesame Street Live” stage shows.

She also was said to have had a keen eye for spotting puppeteer talent. She served on the board of the Jim Henson Foundation, which promotes the art of puppetry. In 1992, she founded the Jim Henson Legacy to preserve his artistic contributions, and in 2001, she created the Jane Henson Foundation to continue her philanthropic work.

Henson also co-founded the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and received honors from organizations including the Union Internationale de la Marionette, Puppetry Guild of Greater New York, the U. of Maryland Alumni Assn., the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Ga, the Paley Center and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Jim and Jane Henson were legally separated in 1986, but she continued to be active in preserving the legacy of her husband, who died in 1990.

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  1. Ginger Lynn says:

    Rest In Peace. Jim and Jane’s work has forever touched and influenced my life bringing joy, whimsy, and magic with their lovable Muppets. Thank you.

  2. Lobo Di Noccento says:

    Jim and Jane Henson and their family brought forth this amazing light of love and laughter and helped us their audience to reconnect with the innocence of what it is to be a child; And in that innocence we found safety,compassion and joy. When we lost Jim it was heart breaking we felt as though we had lost a friend a confidant and a father but now to lose Jane too is just heart breaking as she was the keeper of Jim’s secrets the maker of his brew that helped us dare to dream and imagine what it is to believe in better things, kinder people and safer places to be unafraid of knowing what it is to feel unconditional, unjudgemental love. My only hope is that their family will find a way through love to recover from this tragic loss;my best and brightest wishes to the recovery of the whole Henson Family.

  3. Carlos Reig-Plaza says:

    Wonderful, fun and talented Jane.
    Thank you for making this world a better place.

  4. Lisa Shenkle says:

    Jane was an Alpha Xi Delta sister from the University of Maryland, where Jim and her puppets first came to life in our living room. RIP, dear Jane, and thank you for the amazing legacy.

  5. Erik Cooper says:

    Just yesterday, a 15-year-old reporter for Fostering Families Today and Adoption Today magazines interviewed Karen Falk, archivist and historian for The Jim Henson Company, and he learned the amazing work created by Jane and Jim Henson through decade after decade of educating children and teaching us all about empowerment within ourselves to treat one another better than we have been treated, and that through our imagination, anything is possible. Thank you, Jim and Jane, for all of you have given us.

  6. David says:

    Thanks for the memories. A wonderful treat for millions of children and children at heart. Rest in Peace

  7. Thanks for the memories and making my childhood a happy one.

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