Butch Hartman, who created the hit animated shows The Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom, took to Twitter Tuesday after news of Hillenburg's death broke with a heartbroken message about his friend and colleague.
"No words. Steve Hillenburg was a friend and immensely talented creator," he wrote alongside a photo of his friend. "We grew up together at Nickelodeon. Prayers for his family and legions of fans. You will be sorely missed, Steve."
No words. Steve Hillenburg was a friend and immensely talented creator. We grew up together at Nickelodeon. Prayers for his family and legions of fans. You will be sorely missed, Steve. pic.twitter.com/iwaAggGb31— Butch Hartman (@realhartman) November 27, 2018
Hillenburg's cause of death was complications related to his ALS diagnosis, which he announced in March 207.
"We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS," Nickelodeon said in a statement Tuesday. "He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family. Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere. His utterly original characters and the world of Bikini Bottom will long stand as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and the limitless power of imagination."
The network also shared on Twitter, "We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work."
Hillenburg famously didn't begin his career in television, with the award-winning producer graduating from Humboldt State University with a bachelor's degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation in 1984 and then beginning his career as a marine biology teacher at the Orange County Marine Institute (now the Ocean Institute) in Dana Point, California.
His interest in art, however, drove him to pursue a degree in Experimental Animation at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia in 1987, then his Master of Fine Arts in 1992 before going on to create and produce SpongeBob SquarePants, which first aired in May 1999.
Hillenburg is survived by his wife of 20 years, Karen Hillenburg, son Clay, mother Nancy , brother Brian Kelly Hillenburg his wife Isabel and their daughters Emma and Hazel.
Photo Credit: Junko Kimura/Getty Images