Jon Hodge, the planetarium director at Santa Monica College for 26 years, died of cancer Wednesday, January 4th. He was 57 years old.

Hodge, a Winetka resident, was on medical leave from the college and was going to announce his retirement before he died.

In tribute, his colleagues at the Earth Sciences Department arranged to have an asteroid named after him last year. Asteroid 18117 is now called Jonhodge.

“Jon is remembered as a charming and — even when battling cancer — ever-cheerful man who had a highly developed ability to turn complex subjects into understandable lectures and lively presentations for people of all ages,” said Santa Monica College interim president Tom Donner.

Hodge’s planetarium shows were attended by large numbers of college students, schoolchildren, and the general public.

He lectured about every astronomy subject and many of his talks had quirky titles such as “Apocalypse Now: The Asteroid Risk,” “How Big is Space?” and “This Alien Earth.”

The shows still went on in classrooms after the 1994 earthquake damaged the planetarium and Hodge’s career reached a milestone when the college constructed a new facility with a high-technology projection system.

Donner said Hodge had a loyal audience who followed him to many shows, though some people never knew Hodge’s college degree was not in astronomy.

Hodge started out as an astronomy major at USC but switched to study the history of medieval science.

After graduating, he worked at the Griffith Observatory in 1971 as a guide and lecturer.

In 1979, he was hired as Santa Monica College planetarium director and continued to lecture at Griffith until it closed three years ago for major renovations.

He also worked at UCLA, where he organized popular public seminars on astronomy.

Hodge was active in the Southern California astronomy scene and was able to bring to Santa Monica College guest lecturers from the Griffith Observatory, Cal Tech, UCLA and the Jet Propulsion Lab.

His professional memberships included the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the International Planetarium Society.

He is survived by his wife, Mary; two sons, Brendan and Timothy; a daughter, Rosamund; and two grandchildren.

A vigil service was held Wednesday, January 11th, in Reseda.

A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, January 12th, at Saint Mel Church, 20870 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.

Burial will immediately follow the funeral at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, 11160 Stanwood Ave., Mission Hills.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial donationss may be made to Catholic Medical Mission Board, P.O. Box 4715, New York, NY 10164.