Jerry Nelson, Count von Count’s voice and early Henson collaborator, dies at 78

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The man behind the voice of Sesame Street‘s Count von Count is gone. Jerry Nelson, who worked with Muppets creator Jim Henson early in his career, died Thursday at age 78.

Nelson also played Gobo Fraggle on the 1980s Henson TV series Fraggle Rock.

Jim Henson Co. C.E.O. Lisa Henson said in a statement that 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 Co. 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.”

Henson and Nelson first worked together as puppeteers in New York City in the mid-1960s.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Nelson was the puppeteer behind “Mr. Snuffleupagus, a shy pachyderm friend to Big Bird; Sgt. Floyd Pepper, bassist of the Electric Mayhem Band; Dr. Julius Strangepork, science officer on the USS Swinetrek; Camilla the Chicken, the other half of Gonzo’s inter-species relationship; Lew Zealand, master fish-boomerangist; and Robin, sweet nephew to Kermit the Frog.”

Nelson had announced his retirement as a puppeteer in 2004, but provided The Count’s voice up to his death. He also appeared as a telethon announcer in the 2011 film The Muppets.