March 24, 2023

Caroll Spinney Bio, Wiki, Age, Education, First Wife, Wife (Debra Jean Gilroy), Children, Net Worth, Cause of Death

Caroll Spinney Bio, Wiki

Caroll Edwin Spinney was born on December 26th, 1933 and died on December 8th, 2019. He was an American puppeteer, cartoonist, author and speaker most famous for playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street from its inception in 1969 until 2018.

Caroll Spinney Education & Ealy Life

Spinney was born in Waltham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Acton High School, Spinney served in the Air Force. While he was in the Air Force, Spinney created, wrote and illustrated a comic called “Harvey” about life in the military.

His mother, a native of Bolton, England, named him Caroll because he was born the day after Christmas.

Caroll Spinney Puppetry

“A lifelong artist, Spinney developed a love of puppetry at an early age. He explored puppeteering throughout his childhood and adolescence and even used money from his performances to pay his college tuition. After serving in the Air Force, he performed as a professional puppeteer in Las Vegas and Boston in the 1950s and 1960s,” the Sesame Workshop said.

“Besides virtuosic puppeteering, Spinney is also an accomplished author and visual artist. He co-authored and illustrated his autobiography, The Wisdom of Big Bird. He holds four honorary doctorates and is a passionate lecturer. He holds a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award, six Emmys, two Gold Records, and two Grammy honors. He is the 2003 recipient of the “Legacy for Children Award,” and The Christopher’s James Keller Award in 2004. His life and career have been documented in the widely-acclaimed 2014 film, I Am Big Bird,” the Sesame Workshop says.

Caroll Spinney Sesame Street

Spinney joined Sesame Street for the inaugural season in 1969. However, he nearly left after the first season because he was not getting acceptable pay, but Kermit Love persuaded him to stay. He has performed the Big Bird and Oscar characters in Australia, China, Japan, and across Europe. As Big Bird and Oscar, Spinney conducted orchestras across the US and Canada, including the Boston Pops, and visited the White House multiple times. He provided the characters’ voices on dozens of albums.

Caroll Spinney retired from “Sesame Street” in October 2018 after nearly five decades starring on the legendary public television show for children. Spinney was wheelchair-bound from complications caused by his battle with Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that causes muscle contractions.

Caroll Spinney First Wife

Spinney was married twice. He and his first wife, Joyce Spinney, were married from 1960 to 1971 and had three children. Spinney then met his second wife, Debra Gilroy Spinney, on the set of “Sesame Street.” They married in 1979, according to The New York Times. She had been working for Children’s Television Workshop as a secretary when they met in 1973.

Caroll Spinney Wife (Debra Jean Gilroy)

After his first marriage ended, Spinney was depressed and contemplated suicide, according to The Daily Beast. But he then met and began dating Debra Jean Gilroy and she helped him turn his life around. They later settled down together in Woodstock, Connecticut, where he lived until his death.

Caroll Spinney Children

Spinney is also survived by his three children, Jessica, Melissa, and Ben, along with his grandchildren.

Caroll Spinney Death & Cause

Caroll Spinney died at his home in Woodstock, Connecticut on December 8th, 2019, at age 85, just two weeks shy of his 86th birthday. Before his death, Spinney lived with dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that causes muscle contractions.

Henson’s family issued a statement after Spinney’s death saying, “It was a moment of creative destiny when Caroll Spinney met Jim Henson. The gentle performer who would bring to life two of the most beloved residents of Sesame Street could perfectly convey the humor and heart in our father’s creations. Big Bird was childlike, without being childish. And Oscar the Grouch reflected universal feelings we all share, no matter our age.”

The Henson family added, “Those of us privileged to work alongside him and call him friend saw first-hand that he cared so deeply about what these characters represented and how they could truly create change. Caroll’s decades-long commitment to bettering the lives of children all around the world is his true legacy. That he could do this work so brilliantly, responsibly, and with such infectious love and joy, is his gift to us all.”