DEAD: Jim Henson

DEAD: ON THIS DATE

Jim Henson (aged 53)
20th-century American puppeteer

James Maury Henson (September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990) was an American puppeteer, animator,cartoonist, voice actor, inventor, filmmaker, and screenwriter who achieved worldwide notice as the creator of The Muppets (1955–) and Fraggle Rock(1983–1987). He was born in Greenville, Mississippiand raised in Leland, Mississippi and Hyattsville, Maryland.

DEATH: Henson was having trouble breathing at around 2 a.m. on May 15, and he began coughing up blood. He suggested to his wife that he might be dying, but he did not want to take time off from his schedule to visit a hospital. Two hours later, he agreed to be taken by taxi to the emergency room at New York Hospital in Manhattan. Shortly after admission, he stopped breathing, and an X-ray revealed that he had abscesses in his lungs as a result of a viral infection. He was placed on a ventilator, but he deteriorated over the next several hours, despite increasingly aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics.

Henson died at age 53 on May 16, 1990, just over 20 hours after being admitted to New York Hospital. Dr. David Gelmont announced that Henson had died from Streptococcus pneumoniae, an infection that causes bacterial pneumonia. However, he confirmed on May 29 that Henson’s immediate cause of death was organ dysfunction resulting from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome caused by Streptococcus pyogenes. News spread quickly and admirers of his work responded from around the world with tributes and condolences. Many of Henson’s co-stars and directors from Sesame Street, the Muppets, and other works also shared their thoughts on his death. On May 21, Henson’s public memorial service was conducted in Manhattan at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Another was conducted on July 2 at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In accordance with Henson’s wishes, no one in attendance wore black, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band finished the service by performing “When the Saints Go Marching In”. Harry Belafonte sang “Turn the World Around”, a song that he had debuted on The Muppet Show, as each member of the congregation waved a brightly colored foam butterfly attached to a puppet performer’s rod. Later, Big Bird walked onto the stage and sang Kermit’s signature song “Bein’ Green”. Dave Goelz as Gonzo, Frank Oz, Kevin Clash, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, and Richard Hunt sang a medley of Henson’s favorite songs in their characters’ voices, ending with a performance of “Just One Person”. The funeral was described by Life as “an epic and almost unbearably moving event”. Henson was cremated and his ashes were scattered in 1992 near Taos in New Mexico.

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