Puppeteer and philanthropist Jane Nebel Henson has died at her home in Connecticut after a long battle with cancer, her family said Tuesday. She was 78.
A memorial mass is planned for next week. The details regarding where and when it will take place have not been announced yet.
The New York native met her future husband, Jim Henson, at a puppetry class at the University of Maryland and soon became an integral creative and business partner in what would become the Muppets. The couple married in 1959 and separated in 1986, but remained close until his death in 1990. They had five children together.
"As a fine arts education major studying at the University of Maryland in 1954, Jane Nebel shared with Jim Henson a unique approach to puppetry that is joyful and sophisticated," The Jim Henson Co. said in a statement Tuesday.
In addition to her work on the Muppets, Henson continued her studies in fine art at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Years later, the family moved to Greenwich, Conn., where Jane was assistant art teacher at the Mead School for Human Development.
She continued her official association with The Jim Henson Co., and actively participated in the company as it became a global family entertainment organization, collaborating with her husband on a number of projects including the traveling museum exhibit "The Art of the Muppets," and "The Muppet Show on Tour" and "Sesame Street Live" arena stage shows.
Jane Henson also served on the board of The Jim Henson Foundation, founded in 1982 by her husband to promote and develop the art of puppetry and presently headed by their daughter Cheryl Henson.
In 1992, Henson funded and founded The Jim Henson Legacy, to conserve, preserve and present the artistic contribution of Jim Henson. In 2001, she created the Jane Henson Foundation where she continued her philanthropic work.
"Jane Nebel Henson, always modest about her own contribution to the creation and success of the Muppets, would often speak to the public about Jim Henson's body of work and how, 'Jim wanted to leave the world a better place,'" the statement said. "According to Arthur Novell, the trustee of The Jim Henson Legacy, 'Most would agree they both did.'"