John Henson, 48, who occasionally performed as a puppeteer in the famed Muppets troupe his father founded, died Friday of a heart attack at his home in Saugerties, N.Y. He did not have a history of heart trouble, his sister Cheryl said.
His father, Jim Henson, died at age 53 of pneumonia in 1990.
John Henson sometimes performed as Sweetums, a large, hairy Muppet who towered over other puppets and humans. Henson played the character for a while at the Muppet*Vision 3D attraction at Disney World, where near the end of the show he would suddenly run into the audience to screams of delight from fans, said Brian Jay Jones, whose Jim Henson biography was published last year. John Henson also trained others who played Sweetums.
He was on the board of the Jim Henson Co., headquartered in Los Angeles, but had little to do with the company’s day-to-day operations.
“He was more of an artist,” Jones said. “He renovated a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse, making every surface in the house interesting and beautiful. He had his dad’s mentality in that he was so detail-oriented.”
He made several Muppets-themed sculptures, some of which were placed in company offices and workshops.
John Henson was born April 25, 1965.
Jones said he was “the spiritual Henson.” After his father’s death, he took possession of the cremated ashes for two years and determined where to scatter them. “John and Jim were once driving in New Mexico, near Taos,” Jones said. “Jim pointed to a hill and said he thought that it was the place where he was meant to live.” In 1992, John Henson and other family members traveled there to spread the ashes.
He is survived by his wife, Gyongyi; daughters Katrina and Sydney; sisters Lisa, Heather and Cheryl; and brother Brian.
His mother, Jane Henson, died last year of cancer at age 78.