Over the weekend, we learned of the shocking, tragic news that John Paul Henson, the son of Jim and Jane Henson, had passed away late on February 14th. As the Muppet community learned of the news, an outpouring of love and support remembering the great man was shown online. Powerful, beautiful tributes to John were released by The Jim Henson Company, The Jim Henson Legacy, and many more.
Below is a lovely, touching, in-depth tribute to John from The Jim Henson Company, originally posted on their Facebook page yesterday.
John Henson (March 25, 1965 – February 14, 2014)
John Henson was born in Greenwich Connecticut to his parents, Jim and Jane Henson. At seven years old, he and his family moved to Bedford NY, where they lived through John’s childhood years.
At sixteen, John, with his friend, John Kahn, bought an old school house in Saugerties, New York. Kahn then trained Henson in the arts of home building, furniture design, and sculpture. These disciplines would become John Henson’s life work.
Throughout his adult life, John worked with his family’s business, The Jim Henson Company, as an accomplished puppeteer. He performed the character Sweetums from 1992 until 2003, and worked as a full-body performer inside of creatures such as the Coca Cola polar bear, among others. After Jim Henson’s death in 1990, John became a shareholder and active board member in the company, and stayed involved in The Jim Henson Company until his death.
His main life passion always returned him to his projects in Saugerties, New York. He became a master in three-dimensional spatial design. His many homes and buildings in Saugerties reflect his unique design aesthetic and his extraordinary attention to detail. Each of his buildings is an art project, an immersive experience balancing function with artistic expression. His exterior, and fine interior work, utilizing a wide range of materials; from wood, to metal, to stone, created rooms of exquisite embracing craftsmanship. At the time of his death, John Henson had owned and extensively developed many properties in Saugerties, New York.
In 1996, John met the love of his life, Gyongyi Katona, and in 1999 they gave birth to their first daughter, Katrina. Their second daughter, Sydney, was born in 2003. John was a loving, playful, and dedicated father, and was very involved in all aspects of his girls’ lives.
John’s family commented, “John had the deepest soul of any man alive; sensitive, artistic, and extremely compassionate, there was no limit to his love.”
A close friend of the family, Arthur Novell described John as, “a most remarkably kind and generous man who gave so much and asked for so little. He infused us with the light of his inquisitive mind, the spirit of his keen intellect and the genius of his talent to create. John will forever be remembered and cherished and talked about and somewhere in the Universe he will be rejoiced.”
John Henson is survived by his wife Gyongyi Henson, and his two daughters, Katrina (15 years) and Sydney (10 years), as well as his siblings, Lisa, Cheryl, Brian, and Heather.
Other tributes to this great, singular soul that was John Henson, included these lovely words from Muppet director Kirk Thatcher, who wrote..
“[John] had a huge heart, an easy laugh, a lopsided grin, twinkly impish eyes and a wild, creative streak that burned with a quiet intensity that shone through his life and art. He was a merry madman who played Sweetums in almost all of the Muppet projects I directed and he did it with the enthusiasm and silliness worthy of the big, sweet Ogre. I will miss him tremendously, but know that he’s with his parents, Jim and Jane, heading off to make some crazy stuff with them in that infinite space that exists just beyond our physical senses, but we feel in our hearts.”
On Twitter, Muppet performers Tyler Bunch and Stephanie D’Abruzzo as well as songwriter Paul Williams shared their support via Twitter, which you can see below.
Some truly gorgeous, touching fan art tributes to John were drawn by some talented artists as well.
We miss you greatly John. Thank you for sharing your magic with the world.
Our thoughts and love are with the friends, family, and loved ones of John during this tragic time.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org