Both the entertainment field and the ocean community lost a huge presence on Monday. Stephen Hillenburg, who created "SpongeBob SquarePants," passed away at age 57, according to the Washington Post.
In early 2017, Variety reported that Hillenburg had been diagnosed with ALS, a terminal illness that targets nerve cells in the brain and spine. Ultimately the disease claimed his life, and fans everywhere have been mourning the man who brought so much joy to television with his creation of SpongeBob.
The show has been running since 1999, with Hillenburg working on it all the way until his death.
He told Variety in 2017 that he didn't plan to let ALS get in the way of his continued efforts on the show.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on 'SpongeBob SquarePants' and my other passions for as long as I am able," he said in a statement. "My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support."
Nickelodeon, the network that runs "SpongeBob," took to Twitter after Hillenburg's passing to honor his lifetime of work.
It's understandably an emotional time for those at Nickelodeon and all those who enjoyed the show.
But Hillenburg didn't just create a beloved series out of nowhere. As Azula previously reported, Hillenburg was first and foremost a marine biologist. To help explain the ocean to the children he taught at the Ocean Institute, he created a comic book called "The Intertidal Zone."
It was about the same kinds of sea characters that eventually made their way onto the show.
Even after he switched careers to full-time animation, Hillenburg never lost his love of the sea. A self-professed "ocean freak," according to another Washington Post article, Hillenburg always saw "SpongeBob" as a way to get people excited about what goes on under the surface of the sea.
The first Washington Post piece reported that Hillenburg once said, "People have to get together and [realize] how important our oceans are. ... Hopefully, if you watch 'SpongeBob,' [you'll want to] take care of our oceans."
So if you want to honor Hillenburg's legacy after his passing, keep his spirit alive by advocating for the ocean.