Caroll Spinney has been the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the series began 45 years ago, but out of all his interactions with children, there's one moment that sticks out the most.
During an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on the social platform Reddit, one commenter asked the actor to recount a meaningful memory from his time as the beloved character.
(Photo Credit: PBS Kids)
"I got a letter from a fan who said his little boy, who was five-years-old, his name was Joey, he was dying of cancer," the 81-year-old wrote on Thursday of an interaction that happened years ago.
"And he was so ill, the little boy knew he was dying. So the man, in his letter, asked if I would call the little boy. He said the only thing that cheered him at all in his fading state was to see Big Bird on television."
Caroll in 2011. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Caroll continued, "So I had Big Bird call and say, 'Hello! Hello Joey! It's me, Big Bird!'
"He said 'Is it really you, Big Bird?' 'Yes, it is.' I replied and chatted a while with him, about ten minutes, and he said 'I'm glad you're my friend Big Bird,' and I said 'I'd better let you go now,' to which he replied 'Thank you for calling me Big Bird. You're my friend. You make me happy.'"
Big Bird and former first lady, Laura Bush. (Photo Credit: PBS Kids)
But it's what happened after Caroll hung up the phone that stays with him to this day.
"[Joey's father] hadn't seen him smile since October, and this was in March — and when he hung up the phone, he said to his dad, 'Big Bird called me! He's my friend.' And he closed his eyes, and he passed away," the father-of-three wrote.
A documentary on Caroll's life is in theaters now. (Photo Credit: Tribeca Film)
He said that conversation showed him just how impactful Big Bird's words are to children. "And [Joey's father] said 'We haven't seen our little boy smile in MONTHS. He smiled, as he passed away. It was a gift to us. Thank you,'" Caroll recounted.
So, is anyone else also reaching for the Kleenex box right about now? Who knew we could love this childhood icon even more?!
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