Jane Henson, the former wife of Jim Henson and a puppeteer responsible for designing many Muppets, has died at the age of 78.

She died Tuesday at her Connecticut home following a battle with cancer.

The couple's children, through their Jim Henson Company, issued a release saying their mother had been an "integral creative and business partner" in the creation of The Muppets for TV.

The former Jane Ann Nebel met Jim Henson at the University of Maryland in the 1950s, while both studied puppetry. They worked together on the live TV show Sam and Friends, developing techniques they later used for The Muppets, including perfecting performances by watching themselves live on television monitors. The couple was soon asked to appear on variety shows.

They married in 1959 and had five children. Jane Henson stopped working in the mid-1960s to care for her family, but remained an influence as a puppet designer and partner in the company. She helped train Frank Oz and hire puppeteers such as Steve Whitmire.

As well as appearing on their own TV show and numerous movies, the Muppets were integral to the iconic children's program Sesame Street.

Henson legally separated from her husband four years prior to his death in 1990 at the age of 53. However, they remained close. She later founded The Jim Henson Legacy to preserve his artistic contribution and served on the board of the Jim Henson Foundation, which trains young puppeteers.

She is survived by her five children.

With files from The Associated Press