Spinney, the puppeteer who operated and voiced Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch starting with Sesame Street's launch in 1969 until his retirement in October 2018, died today at his home in Connecticut "after living with Dystonia for some time," Sesame Workshop announced in a statement. "Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending," said Sesame Workshop. "His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while." Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said of her longtime colleague and friend: “Caroll Spinney’s contributions to Sesame Street are countless. He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well. We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world.” Spinney stopped doing the puppeteering for Big Bird in 2015 because of the physical toll it took on him, opting to do the voices for him and Oscar instead. Spinney told The New York Times last year that impending 50th anniversary was a good time to retire. “I always thought, How fortunate for me that I got to play the two best Muppets?” he told The Times. “Playing Big Bird is one of the most joyous things of my life.” In 2010, Spinney told Yankee magazine he was glad to be anonymous despite his world-famous characters. “I’ve gotten used to the fact that Big Bird’s super famous and I’m a nobody,” he said. “I made my peace with it. I’m glad I’m not recognizable.” ALSO: Spinney died hours before tonight's ceremony celebrating Sesame Street as the first TV show to receive the Kennedy Center Honor.