I'm not going to talk about all his characters because that would probably take several years, but when I heard the news this morning, it reminded me of a story regarding one of his Sesame Street characters, Herry Monster.
Once when I was in either middle school or high school, we had an assembly in which the speaker asked people to name Sesame Street characters. When someone gave him a name, he asked that person to come up and stand on the stage. Then, when the stage was full of people, I think they sang a song or something, but I don't remember which song. I don't remember what the point of the presentation was, either; probably something like believing in yourself or accepting others or being green or something.
But what I do remember about it is that one of my classmates said Herry Monster, and the speaker was like, "Herry Monster? Who's that? Did you just make that up? Aren't they all hairy?" etc. He asked my classmate to come up on stage anyway, but anytime he referred to Herry Monster he would make faces, talk about it in an incredulous tone of voice, use air quotes, the whole bag of tricks to indicate that you're humoring someone but don't really believe them.
Meanwhile, I was sitting there thinking to myself, "How do you not know about Herry Monster? How can you possibly go around doing lectures involving Sesame Street characters and not know Herry Monster?" If it had been a contemporary of ours, as middle and/or high school students, or someone younger than us, then I could easily understand. But he was older than us and therefore, presumably, could have watched Sesame Street in the '70s, when Herry was all over the place.
Fortunately for Herry, he was involved in one of the most famous and beloved Muppet & kid moments in the entire history of the show (which is saying something), and it does my heart good to know that that clip will be keeping Herry Monster alive as part of the Sesame legacy for years to come, because Herry just happens to be one of my favorite characters.
Herry is one of the best examples Sesame Street ever gave of why you shouldn't judge by appearances alone. As evidenced above, beneath his somewhat fierce-looking appearance and gruff voice was a heart of absolute gold. It probably goes without saying that that warm and tender heart came directly from Jerry Nelson himself, but I'll go ahead and say it anyway.
Again, if I start posting videos of all of Jerry Nelson's best moments on Sesame Street, I will never stop, but I did also want to highlight Herry's starring role in the Monsterpiece Theater presentation of Chariots of Fur, which is especially timely considering the recent Olympics.