Stephen Hillenburg, a man who has brought more than his fair share of joy to kids of all ages via his creation SpongeBob SquarePants, has succumbed to the neurodegenerative disease ALS, AKA Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Hillenburg combined his two great passions – marine life and art – to create SpongeBob Squarepants. The relentlessly positive – and, of course, very porous – character and his fellow Bikini Bottom citizens quickly became a runaway success, leading to several series (some 242 episodes and counting), two movies (with a third – The SpongeBob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge – due in 2020), a musical and a mass marketing empire.

Originally working as a marine biology teacher, the first stirrings of SpongeBob came from Hillenburg via a science lesson presented in comic book form, The Intertidal Zone. It was designed to keep students interested, and obviously led to much greater things.

Stephen Hillenburg - SpongeBob Squarepants

In 1987, Hillenburg decided to pursue a career in animation and enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts. Following graduation, he began his stint at Nickelodeon, working on Rocko’s Modern Life and Rugrats, before the breakthrough with SpongeBob in 1999. The series has sicne become the most successful ever for the network.

So long Stephen Hillenburg, and thanks for all the fish, and plankton, and crabs, and squid, and starfish, and snails, and a squirrel – and, most importantly, happy memories via a sweet yet brilliantly funny cartoon legacy.