The creator of the Nickelodeon animated TV series SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg, has died at the age of 57.

Stephen Hillenburg’s cause of death is believed to be the neurodegenerative disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which he was diagnosed with in March of last 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 humour 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.”

He is survived by his wife of 20 years Karen Hillenburg, son Clay, mother Nancy Hillenburg (nee Dufour) and brother Brian Kelly Hillenburg.

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