Baywatch and Knight Rider star David Hasselhoff, who played a lifeguard in 2004’s SpongeBob SquarePants motion picture, said it was a “stunning misfortune”.
“Wow what a novel and awesome character Steve made!” he tweeted.
Lori Alan, who voiced the character Pearl Krabs, called Hillenburg a “strangely skilled, unassuming, generous and colossal hearted man” in a tribute on Instagram.
“You cleared out this world – the whole world – more joyful, kinder and brimming with euphoria,” she included.
Proficient skater Tony Hawk additionally paid tribute on Twitter, expressing gratitude toward Hillenburg “for the common giggles” he’d had with his youngsters as the years progressed.