There are some people you meet in life that are inherently good and special. Chris Birch was one of those people. His sudden passing last week shocked his family, friends, colleagues, and many who knew him. I was lucky to have known Chris. He was on one of the most genuine and kind people I have ever met. Chris cared deeply about public service, but his first priority was his family. Chris leaves behind his wife, Pam, his son, Logan, his daughter, Tali, and his four grandchildren.
I am good friends with Logan. If you know what kind of father Logan is, then you know what kind of father Chris was – kind, loving, and caring. Chris was also a good husband. Whether he was in Anchorage or Juneau, his wife Pam was always close by.
Chris was the kind of person who was always positive and optimistic. He was also extremely honest and genuine. You never wondered what he thought or where he stood on an issue. And if you didn’t agree with him on something, he was always respectful. Politics was never personal for Chris.
During his last campaign, it came to light that his primary opponent had been charged with a serious crime. It was widely reported in the media. I called Chris to ask him about what he thought. His response was not to laugh or judge – the response many people in his position would normally have – he told me it was sad and that he hoped her family was ok. That was the kind of person Chris Birch was.
When we partnered with the ADN to host Election Central for the general election, I set it up to be a 21+ event so there would not have to be a separate drinking area. Chris and Logan reached out to me to see if I could change that so Chris could bring his grandkids. Logan told me of the great memories he had as a kid going to Election Central with his parents. Chris told me he wanted to be able to bring his grandkids, and that other candidates would also like to be able to bring their kids and grandkids. I got to work and was able to remedy this issue. Family always came first for Chris.
When I lost my election in 2016 I heard from a lot of people. But one stood out – Chris Birch. Chris pulled me aside at an event and told me what a good job he thought I did, despite losing. He told me to keep at it and to ignore all the negative people. He told me he saw something special in me and that he believed in me. I will never forget that conversation. It made me feel good to know that someone like Chris felt that way about me and was so encouraging. After I started the Landmine, Chris would often tell me what a good job he thought I was doing. Chris always saw the good in people.
On Thursday, a memorial service was held for Chris at Hilltop Ski Area. No one knew how many people would show up. There was a question about how many chairs were needed. I expected there would be a lot of people, and there were. Over 500 people showed up. It was something to see. His family, friends, and people from all sides of the political spectrum came to remember Chris. Chris impacted the lives of so many people. It didn’t matter if Chris knew you his whole life or had just met you, he always made you feel like a friend.
Chris will be greatly missed by so many. I will miss calling him to chat. I will miss him sending me pictures of him doing something fun with his family. I will miss running into him in the halls of the Capitol and hearing his infectious laugh. I will miss seeing him at events or functions and him telling me a funny story or about how proud he is of his kids and grandkids.
I will end this with part of the remarks that Representative Chuck Kopp (R – Anchorage) made about Chris at his memorial. These are seven lessons from the example of Chris’ life that Chuck and his colleagues came up with:
- We should cherish a grateful and cheerful disposition, not complaining if our wishes are not indulged, or because our joy may be blended with trials.
- Relationships are important – build them, deepen them, and multiply them. If you had coffee or a meal with Chris in a public place, you had to allot an extra 30 minutes for the ‘hellos’ and meaningful conversations he would have with nearly everyone in the room.
- Real friends share locations! Chris would take your iPhone, and make sure you were sharing locations. He had no patience for privacy concerns. I mean, you were his friend! Why on earth would you NOT want to know where your friends are at any given moment? There was no arguing with him on this point.
- Nasty, difficult people need grace. Be kind to them, a number of times. But at some point, you move on. Don’t let the ankle biters drag you down.
- Share the experiences of life with everyone! Joy shared is doubled. Sorrow shared is cut in half. Many of us have pics of Chris from all over the world! His bright smiles of joy and enthusiasm were not “look at me”, but “I so wish you were here with me!” We would be having so much MORE fun!
- Live life in balance – love people (family, community, country, God), pursue knowledge, and make connections. You saw this balance when you walked into Chris’ personal work office, you immediately would notice something unusual… he had no phone, no computer, and no work desk! It was set up to receive everyone as if they were guests in his home. He took every call, answered every email, composed every letter, and drafted every policy document from his iPhone. All that other stuff was to him, just background noise, interfering from his connecting with people. So he would have none of it!
- If you remember only one thing about Chris Birch… remember this – he showed us that people are worth it, worth all your life’s energy and resources, and the only investment you take with you when you step across the threshold of eternity.