I have never had a great amount of knowledge or interest when it comes to Science, but it wasn't hard to admire Stephen Hawking. Leaving aside his towering intellect, he was obviously a incredibly strong individual, to have coped with his illness for so long and still maintained his sense of self.
His sense of humour didn't seem to desert him, and he was involved with the Simpsons, the Big Bang Theory poking gentle humour at himself, and the public persona he projected. The fact that he lived with Motor Neurone disease for so long, when medical professionals had initially predicted that he would only have two years, when he was first diagnosed is both a tribute to his strength, and the skill of the medical professionals that treated him over the years.
The tributes that have been made since the announcement of his death, have come from experts in science such as Neil Degrasse Tyson, and members of the public which shows his influence. He was not only influential in shaping the way that Science sees the universe, but influenced the wider public in the way to view those with disabilities, or illnesses.