JUNEAU — Anchorage Senator Chris Birch passed away on Wednesday. He was 68 years old.
Birch’s proud family history in Alaska began in 1944 when his father, Frank, was stationed in Adak while serving in the US Marine Corps. After the war, Frank returned to Alaska with his wife, Bettijeanne, where he worked as a mining engineer and she as a geologist.
Growing up in mining camps near Fairbanks and the Brooks Range, Birch followed in his father’s footsteps, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1972 and a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management in 1979.
Birch served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 2017-2018 and the Alaska Senate in 2019, in addition to membership on both the Anchorage and Fairbanks assemblies and other numerous community organizations throughout his life.
He is survived by his wife, Pam, two children and four grandchildren.
Senate President Cathy Giessel and Senator Natasha von Imhof released the following statements on his passing.
“Rich and I offer our heartfelt condolences to Pam and the Birch family. This is a devastating loss to our state. Chris was a good, principled man of character, one who treated everyone with dignity and respect. You could always count on him to stand up for what’s right, regardless of the political consequences. His absence in the Capitol will be keenly felt by all who had the privilege to know him.” –Senate President Cathy Giessel
“Chris’ passing came as shock to us all. He was extremely fit, in both mind and body. Chris never met a hiking trail he didn’t like and could often be found on top of a mountain range, rain or shine. He carried that same mindset to the Senate floor and didn’t shy away from the tough topics. Instead, he worked hard for Alaska’s best future, while always maintaining a positive outlook. He was my colleague, my hiking partner, my dear friend. I will miss him deeply.” –Senator Natasha von Imhof
The Birch family released the following statement Thursday morning:
Around 9:00 pm yesterday evening our husband, dad and hero, Chris Birch, passed away at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska surrounded by loved ones. His day yesterday was as normal as any, he was happy to be home from extended time in Juneau and was busy taking care of household chores, going on a walk with my mom and their dog Otto, planning a hike in Girdwood, and enjoying a great dinner with friends. Just after 7:00 pm, he experienced severe chest pains and was driven to the Anchorage Fire Department station on O’Malley road and from their taken to the hospital. It was immediately determined he did not have a heart attack and as they were administering tests to determine the cause of the pain, he went into cardiac arrest and passed away from an an aortic dissection, a torn or ruptured aorta.
Our family is devastated. The same optimistic, level-headed, steadfast, honest, gregarious, and positive public persona that so many of you knew, was the exact same husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend that he was to all of us. He was the ultimate cheerleader and it is difficult to imagine this world without him. Our thanks go out to the dedicated professionals at the Anchorage Fire Department and the legions of staff at Providence Hospital that did everything in their power to help him, Anchorage is lucky to have these assets. My mom is blanketed with love and support from family and friends and we appreciate the kind words from so many of you near and far. Life is short and can change at any moment. He never missed an opportunity to give a hug, lend a hand, or spend time with his loved ones. My only recommendation is to try to live your life like Chris Birch did, I know we do everyday.
Logan, Pam, and Tali Birch