November has been a month for heart-wrenching celebrity deaths close to our childhoods. Not long after the heartbreaking news over Stan Lee, Stephen Hillenburg joined the stars yesterday. The cause of death is reported to be ALS, which he revealed had been diagnosed since March of the previous year.
“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “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.”
Stephen Hillenburg was an accomplished man. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation, with an emphasis on marine resources. He then became a marine biology teacher at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point, California. This leads his interest towards the sea and the love of all aquatic life, leading him to create stories such as Spongebob Squarepants.
Stephen Hillenburg began animating in 1987, going after a degree in Experimental Animation at the California Institute of Arts. He eventually earned his masters in 1992. In the same year, he was awarded the Best Animated Concept award in the Ottawa International Film Festival for the short “Wormholes”. This lead to him becoming a writer on the hit Nickelodeon show “Rocko’s Modern Life”. From this point, he became a full-time writer and producer. His baby (being Spongebob) was born from this. The first episode aired in 1999, and history was forever changed by this wonderful man.
Stephen Hillenburg’s memory is lived on by the wonder he left in children’s hearts along with his wife of 20 years Karen Hillenburg, his son Clay, his mother Nancy Hillenburg, and brother Brian Kelly Hillenburg. Rest in Peace.