Updated: Sen. Chris Birch passes; heart attack - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, December 12, 2019
HomePoliticsUpdated: Sen. Chris Birch passes; heart attack

Updated: Sen. Chris Birch passes; heart attack

Sen. Chris Birch has passed suddenly from a heart attack today. Details will be included here as they become available.

UPDATE FROM THE FAMILY

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

Birch and his family have been in Alaska since the 1950s. He and his wife, Pam, married in 1978 and have two grown children and four grandchildren born and raised in Alaska.

In 1944, Birch’s dad, Frank, came to Adak with the US Marine Corps. After the war, he returned to Alaska with his wife, Bettijeanne. Chris grew up in mining camps near Fairbanks and in the Brooks Range.

Chris earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in 1972, as well as a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management in 1979. He has been a licensed professional engineer in Alaska since 1978.

He moved to Anchorage with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in 1991, and worked in engineering, business development or management capacities with Alyeska Pipeline, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and NANA Development Corporation prior to retirement.

He was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 2016 and to the Alaska Senate in 2018 representing South Anchorage.

Check back for details.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Chris and I were longtime friends and workmates. He was very health conscious and into fitness. This news just knocks me for a loop. So very, very sad. RIP Chris. I’m going to miss you dearly.

  • Sad day for Alaska.

    • Chris Birch was a good man and will be missed. He and I disagreed over the PFD but could have honest discussions, and disagree without being disagreeable.

      My condolences go out to Chris’s family. I will pray that his family is comforted, Senator Birch is now with God.

  • Chris Birch was a very good man. Proud to be a pre-statehood Alaskan, proud to be a hell of a mining engineer, proud of his loving family – and, though too modest to claim it himself – a dedicated, hard-working, principled public servant in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and at the state level in the House and Senate. A true Alaskan life well-lived, ending far too soon. My sympathies to Pam and the entire Birch family – and to Chris: rest in God’s loving peace, my friend.

    • A beautiful tribute, Dan. Well-stated. Alaska was better off with Chris a part of it.

  • I’m so sorry. My condolences to his family.

    I remember the first time I testified to his committee, we were on opposite sides of an issue and I got after him a bit. As I was leaving he left the meeting and followed me into the hallway where he gave me a big smile and a handshake and told me he knew my dad from school up in Fairbanks. He said he was happy to hear me testify. It didn’t matter to him that we disagreed and he was eager to connect and listen to what I had to say. I wish I’d been able to spend more time with him, I think he was one of those who had a deep and genuine affection for the people of this state and that’s a good starting place for any conversation about policy.

  • Rest in Peace Chris.

  • Chris was a good man whom I could always trust from the day he joined us at Alyeska to his time in politics.

  • He was a true gentleman and statesman. He always wore a large smile. His kindness, intelligence, and dedication to living life wholly and fully always left me feeling energized. God bless you, Pam and kids.

  • I’m at a loss for appropriate words about this tragic event, except to express condolences and prayers for Chris’ loved ones. May God support you and hold you in the Palm of His Hand.

  • Rev 1:18 says Jesus holds the keys to death and hell.

  • I talked to him via e-mail on the PFD. We had strong disagreements, but he at least engaged in a respectful manner. Sorry for his family.
    Do hope the district will come up with names for the Governor whom will support and defend the Constitution and law of Alaska.

  • Chris always had a smile and a gentleness about him. He had a great sense of humor and was a staunch defender of the people while an Anchorage Assembly member. We did not always agree on policy but we could always talk and debate the issues respectfully. My sincere prayers for Pam and his family. Rest in peace. God has a fine engineer alongside Him.

  • I’ve known Chris since our days in Fairbanks. I considered him a friend. I enjoyed his humor and joyous outlook on life. This is a loss that I share with you Suzanne. My heart goes out to Pam and his beautiful family. May he Rest In Peace.

  • What a sad time for the Birch family and for Alaska. My deepest sympathies. I share in your grief and pray you feel surrounded by the love of faith, family, and friends as you navigate through this painful and difficult time.

  • I recall a young enthusiastic gold miner who was a fellow student in the dorm at UAF in the late ’60’s. I met his father and their mining partner who shared some tales of flying and mining while holding the summer’s gold in canning jars. Chris mentioned camping nights under a skylight in their building near Chandalar-Squaw Lakes in the Brooks Range and loved the land. Alaska was good to his family and he returned the favor many times over.

  • My heart is aching. I so appreciated Chris, a man of principle and a true public servant representing us in the Alaska State Senate. I was always honored to be part of his TV campaign ad. My prayers are with you, Pam, and with your family.

  • Gone too soon, Chris was a picture of great health and someone to emulate. My prayers for Pam, kids, grandkids and his large group of fans. Alaska will remember you, Sir!

  • I first met Chris when he was at FIA and I was representing the State in some labor dispute there. Unlike a lot of DOT managers, he seemed a pretty straight-up guy. We crossed paths from time to time in the ensuing years. We weren’t close and didn’t always agree, but we had a respectful and collegial relationship. I last saw him at the Kaladi Brothers at Huffman. He’d called me and wanted to talk about some State labor issues as he was preparing the run for the Senate. We had a pleasant chat. I haven’t agreed with him about some of his positions lately – he’s my Senator – but I always knew I could call him and have a civil conversation about the issue.

    A genuine nice guy is gone; may he rest in peace.

  • Pam and family I am shocked and saddened today to learn of the passing of Chris! My thoughts and prayers are with you all. HUGS!!

  • RIP, Senator Birch.

  • Chris and I first met at the university in Fairbanks in the room where we both took the exam for our Professional Engineers license in August of 1978. We both came from mining families and were life long Alaska’s with roots in Fairbanks. While not close friends we had been friends ever since. We were not aligned on the PFD or the budget, but we were still friends. Chris you will be missed…

  • A good and decent man. Chris would always speak to me. A loss for all of us

  • Wow. If that picture is recent he looks the picture of health!

  • Sorry to hear this. My first job out of college I worked for WHPacific. Chris was the president of the company at that time. I met him a few times, and he was a really warm, genuine guy…..my condolences to his family/ friends….

  • Chris promptly wrote me back all three times I emailed him my concerns about the budget and other things, even though we disagreed.
    Good man.

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