Jerry Nelson, the puppeteer best known for playing Count von Count on Sesame Street and Gobo Fraggle on Fraggle Rock, died Thursday, the Jim Henson Company confirmed. He was 78.
"Jerry Nelson imbued all his characters with the same gentle, sweet whimsy and kindness that were a part of his own personality. He joined The Jim Henson Company in the earliest years, and his unique contributions to the worlds of Fraggles, Muppets, Sesame Street and so many others are, and will continue to be, unforgettable," company CEO and Jim Henson's daughter, Lisa, said in a statement on Facebook. "On behalf of the Henson family and everyone at The Jim Henson Company, our deepest sympathies go out to Jerry's family and to his many fans."
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No cause of death was given for Nelson, who also played Mr. Snuffleupagus and Grover's customer Mr. Johnson. He also gave life to multiple characters on Fraggle Rock, which ran from 1983 to 1987. On Sesame Street, Nelson's Count von Count helped teach kids how to count, while Fraggle Rock dealt with issues such as prejudice and spirituality.
An Oklahoma native, Nelson began his career when he started working with puppeteer Bil Baird, best known for creating the marionette sequence for The Sound of the Music. Nelson then worked with Henson first on The Jimmy Dean Show in 1965 and then with The Muppets on and off. On The Muppet Show, Nelson played Sgt. Floyd Pepper, "Pigs in Space" star Dr. Julius Strangepork, Kermit's nephew Robin and Gonzo's girlfriend, Camilla the Chicken.
During the '70s, Nelson was involved with two Muppet films — 1979's The Muppet Movie and 1981's The Great Muppet Caper — while working full time on Sesame Street. Nelson also worked on The Jim Henson Hour, Muppet Treasure Island and The Muppet Christmas Carol before he stopped operating puppets for The Muppets in 2004. He continued to voice the Count, however, until his death.
Nelson also released his first album, Truro Daydreams, in 2009.