Think of the Muppets and you're sure to call to mind the name of Jim Henson, the man known worldwide for creating the popular puppet characters. But did you know that his wife, Jane Nebel Henson, played a big role in the development, design and marketing of the Muppets, too? Jane was always modest about her own contribution to the Muppets, but on her recent passing yesterday, at the age of 78, The Jim Henson Company created a website, Celebrating Jane, that pays tribute to Jane's legacy as matriarch of the Muppets.
According to the site, Jane and Jim met in a puppetry class at the University of Maryland in the 1950s. Combining marionettes and puppets, Jim Henson was offered a spot on a TV show called “Sam and Friends” in Washington, D.C. He asked Jane to join him on the program as a performer and puppet designer, and she became his creative and business partner in the endeavor that laid the future groundwork for Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the whole Muppets ensemble.
Jane graduated in 1955, but continued working with Jim as a performer, puppet designer, puppet builder and business partner. In May 1959, Jane and Jim married at her parents’ home in Salisbury, Md.
Over the next three decades, Jane raised five children with Jim while teaching art and continuing to collaborate on Muppets' projects. The couple legally separated in 1986, but still remained a team when it came to the Muppets. In 1992, two years after Jim passed away, Jane funded and founded The Jim Henson Legacy, to conserve, preserve and present the artistic contribution of Jim Henson.
Jane passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.