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Jon Stone (April 13, 1931 – March 13, 1997) was an original crew member on Sesame Street and best known for writing and producing the program, and is credited with helping develop characters such as Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird. Many regard him as one of the best children's television writers.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Stone graduated from Williams College in 1952. He received a master's degree from the Yale University School of Drama in 1955, at which time he joined a CBS training program. It was then that Stone began his work in children's television, as a writer for Captain Kangaroo before moving onto Sesame Street as writer and executive producer. He also worked on several other Muppet projects before and during his time on Sesame Street, and was the author of several children's books, particularly The Monster at the End of This Book, published by Random House as a Little Golden Book.
Stone was married to former actress Beverley Owen, who was best remembered as the original 'Marilyn' on The Munsters ' first 13-episode 1964 season. During production, Owen was distraught over the separation-by-distance of her then-boyfriend, who was living on the east coast. Because of this, by late 1964 Owen was released from her contract, and left her Hollywood TV career to join and eventually marry Stone in New York. The couple later had two daughters, Polly and Kate, before divorcing a decade later in 1974.
Producing and writing
Stone's earliest association with Jim Henson came in 1965, working on fairy tale projects with writer Tom Whedon, such as a proposed Snow White series. This was turned into a Cinderella pilot, which was shot in October of that year but never aired, and eventually became Hey, Cinderella!. Stone also appeared in Henson's 1967 short film Ripples, as an introspective architect.
In 1968, Stone brought Henson and Joe Raposo (who also worked on Hey, Cinderella!) to the attention of Children's Television Workshop president Joan Ganz Cooney when she started putting together Sesame Street. He wrote the pilot script, and was one of the three original producers of the program; he later served as an executive producer for many years.
Stone eventually became director of Sesame Street from 1969 until 1994. He also directed the 1995 Christmas special Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree. Stone died in New York, on March 13, 1997 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Posthumously, a memorial bench on the Literary Walk in Central Park was dedicated to Stone. The bench is located directly to the right of the bench dedicated to Jim Henson. In his New York Times obituary, Joan Ganz Cooney describes Stone as "probably the most brilliant writer of children's television material in America.”
- Obituary: Jon Stone, Helmore, Edward, The Independent. April 22, 1997.