The woman who was not only married to Jim Henson but who was his partner in creating those beloved Muppets, Jane Henson, lost her battle with cancer on Tuesday at the age of 78. What an incredible legacy those two have left the world!
I have to confess -- I never knew that Jim Henson had a creative partner while coming up with everyone from Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, to Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Cookie Monster! Did you?
Appropriately enough, Jim and Jane met back in the 1950s in a puppetry class at the University of Maryland. Isn’t that so perfect? Later, Jane joined Jim on a show called “Sam and Friends” in Washington, D.C. as a performer and puppet designer, and the pair then became creative and business partners.
It seems to me like Jane must have really taken a back seat in terms of the public -- after they got married in 1959, Jane quit full-time puppeteering to raise their five children. She also taught art classes. Lucky students!
Jane and Jim of course launched The Muppet Show in the 1970s, something for which I will be eternally grateful. One of my favorite childhood memories is going over to my grandma’s house to watch the show together. Of course, I adored Miss Piggy, but you know who I really loved? Those grouchy old men up in the balcony!
Remember this theme song?
I’ve introduced my own daughter to the Muppets; we’ve watched my favorite movie (Muppets Take Manhattan!) at least a few times, and I’m really not sure who was more excited to go see the recent film, even though to me, Kermie will never be the same without the voice of Jim Henson.
Jane and Jim separated in the 1980s, but apparently they still remained close, and after his death, she served on the board of the Jim Henson Foundation. What a fascinating relationship -- to have produced so much magic and art, in the form of their characters AND their children. I hope wherever they are now, they both found out at last why there are so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side. We love you, Hensons!
Jane Henson is survived by her five children, Lisa, Cheryl, Brian, John and Heather, and many grandchildren.
Who’s your favorite Muppet?
Image via The Jim Henson Company