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John Henson, son of Muppets founder, dies at 48

John HensonJim HensonAmusement and Theme ParksPneumoniaShirley Temple

John Henson, who occasionally performed as a puppeteer in the Muppets troupe his father founded, died Friday of a heart attack at his home in upstate New York. He was 48 and did not have a history of heart trouble, his sister Cheryl said.

His father, Jim Henson, also died young: He was 53 when he died 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 a Muppets movie/live-action attraction at Disney World, where he would suddenly run into the audience near the end to screams of delight from fans, said Brian Jay Jones, whose biography on Jim Henson came out last year.

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John Henson was on the board of Jim Henson Co., headquartered in Los Angeles, but he had little to do with the day-to-day operation of the company.

"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."

Henson 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.

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david.colker@latimes.com

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John HensonJim HensonAmusement and Theme ParksPneumoniaShirley Temple
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