Jane Henson, the woman who helped create and bring the Muppets to the world stage and carried those furry puppets through history, died in her Connecticut home on Tuesday after a battle with cancer. She was 78.
While many people associate the history of the Muppet empire with her husband, Jim Henson, Jane was an integral part of the creative enterprise. After meeting Jim in a puppetry class at the University of Maryland in the 1950s, Jane helped create the cast of Jim's show "Sam and Friends," the group of lovable puppets who would go on to become known as the Muppets. Jane worked on the show as a performer and puppet designer, and the two started dating after Jim went on a pilgrimage of sorts in Europe where he drew inspiration from Old World puppeteers. The couple had their first of five children right away in 1960, and Jane spent the next couple of decades raising the family.
Jane stepped back from her role working with the Muppets while raising her children, but she never disappeared completely from the family business. After helping hire and train her replacement on Jim's show, she would appear as a performer from time-to-time over the course of the next few decades. Jane and Jim legally separated in 1986, and Jim died in 1990. Thereafter, Jane carried the torch for the Muppet dynasty setting up The Jim Henson Legacy to preserve her husband's (and her) work. She was also on hand when the original puppets joined the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
The Jim Henson Company announced Jane's death on Tuesday night. She's survived by her five children and millions of Muppet fans around the world.