Beloved Sesame Street Puppeteer Dies

Jerry Nelson who voiced the Count succumbs to emphysema

(RxWiki News) Long before Twilight and True Blood, Count von Count was the most famous vampire on TV — and millions of children learned to count with him daily. Now his voice, Jerry Nelson, has died.

Nelson passed away at age 78 Thursday after years of fighting emphysema.

He had spent more than 40 years of his life giving voice to characters on "Sesame Street" like the Count, whose 1… 2… 3… were many children's first experience with numbers.

Although the Count was perhaps Nelson's most famous character, he also gave life to dozens of others on the PBS show and on "Fraggle Rock" and "The Muppet Show."

He was the first puppeteer to voice and puppet Mr. Snuffleupagus, and he gave life to lovable characters like Gobo Fraggle and Marjory the Trash Heap on "Fraggle Rock."

Nelson began working with Jim Henson's group of puppeteers in 1965 and joined "Sesame Street" during its second season in 1970.

A statement on the Sesame Street website states that the cast and crew of the show "deeply mourn the loss" of Nelson.

"He will forever be in our hearts and remembered for the artistry in his puppetry, his music and the laughter he brought to children worldwide through his portrayal of Count von Count, Herry Monster, Fat Blue, Sherlock Hemlock, the Amazing Mumford and many other beloved characters," the statement read. "We will miss his extraordinary spirit and the joy he brought to our Street."

The disease Nelson died from, emphysema, is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the most common lung diseases and the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

With emphysema, the tiny air sacs in a person's lungs break down, which creates larger air spaces in the lungs. This leaves less surface area for oxygen to be transferred to the lungs, leading to breathlessness.

The leading cause of COPD is smoking, though it's unclear whether this is the reason Nelson had the disease.

The more a person smokes, the more likely it is that they will develop COPD, and there is no cure.

Other risk factors for COPD include exposure to secondhand smoke, frequently using a cooking fire without good ventilation and exposure to certain gases or fumes in a workplace.

Without smoking or one of these risk factors, it is rare that a nonsmoker would develop COPD.

The symptoms of COPD include coughing, fatigue, multiple respiratory infections, shortness of breath and wheezing, but these symptoms can develop slowly over time before a person realizes they might have COPD.

Review Date: 
August 24, 2012