Sesame Street Puppeteer's Legacy Lives On at UConn

NBC Connecticut

Caroll Spinney – the legendary puppeteer behind Big Bird as well as Oscar the Grouch – passed away at his home in Connecticut on Sunday.

He was 85 years old.

We’re told Spinney used to visit the Puppet Art Complex at the University of Connecticut about once a year. He lived not that far away in Woodstock.

“I can only think about all the joy he brought to all of us for more than 50 years,” said Bart Roccoberton, the UConn Puppet Arts Program Director.

At UConn, Spinney autographed a lectern and drew an image of Big Bird, who he had worked with Jim Henson to develop.

“With this, they chose that Big Bird would be this certain age and he would have innocence about him, curiosity about the world. And what was delightful was that was very much Caroll’s personality as well,” said Roccoberton.

Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch were the two characters Spinney voiced and operated on Sesame Street for nearly five decades.

Sometimes Spinney would stop by to see how the UConn students were doing.

“He would look in every corner, touch everything and then from a duffel bag he would pull out Oscar and of course Oscar would critique everything,” said Roccoberton.

How Spinney’s puppetry made a difference to the world is being honored by staff at Buck’s Rock Performing & Creative Arts Camp in New Milford.

“I think you know Big Bird and Caroll had a huge impact on all of us growing up in terms of how to make our way in the world, how to solve problems, how to a be a good person,” said Noah Salzman, Buck’s Rock Performing & Creative Arts Camp executive director.

Spinney retired in 2018 and had been living with dystonia, a movement disorder.

After his death, many believe his legacy will live on.

“Thank you Caroll for everything that you gave us,” said Roccoberton.

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