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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – August 11, 2019

This has been a tough week. My friend, Senator Chris Birch, suddenly passed away on Wednesday night. If you were lucky enough to have known Chris, you knew what kind of wonderful and caring person he was. Chris was a dedicated public servant but his family always came first. Scott Hawkins also passed away this week. He suffered from pancreatic cancer. I did not know Scott nearly as well as I knew Chris, but we did work together on a House race last year. He cared deeply about Alaska.

It doesn’t feel right doing a regular column this week, so instead I am going to focus on my friend Chris. I am working on a separate article about who he was and how I knew him. It’s not easy writing that kind of thing about such a wonderful person, who was taken too early. My heart goes out to his wife, Pam, his kids, Logan and Tali, his four grandchildren, and the rest of this family. Chris was truly a special person who will be greatly missed.

Here is a video tribute to Chris that Cale Green and I made. We had interviewed Chris last year for a profile we were doing on the House District 26 Republican primary – the seat he was vacating to run for the State Senate. It’s fortunate Cale still has the video of that interview. Thanks to everyone who helped us make this video.


The memorial service for Chris will be held on Thursday at 3 pm at Hilltop Ski Area. Here is a statement from the family:

Chris Birch Memorial Announcement

A celebration of a vibrant life is scheduled for Thursday, August 15 at 3:00 pm at Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage, Alaska. All those who knew and loved Chris are welcome to come and share community, camaraderie, and coffee, just as Chris would have wanted.

Chris served for many years on the Hilltop Ski Area board of directors and believed strongly in their mission to support recreational opportunities for youth and was instrumental in helping the organization secure funding to build the chalet. In addition to celebrating his and Pam’s 25th wedding anniversary, Logan and Heather’s engagement, and Tali’s graduation from law school, Chris and Pam could be found hiking at the Hilltop Ski area almost on a daily basis.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting a contribution in support of the community Chris loved to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska.

There was a lot of talk and confusion about what happened in the immediate aftermath. Some people rushed to post about it on the internet, before the family could process what happened or release a statement. Shame on them. Chris did not have a heart attack, he had an aortic dissection. Something I had never even heard about before this happened. Here is the statement from the family about his passing.

Statement from the family of Chris Birch

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

Here is a podcast I did with Chris back in March. We discuss his history in Alaska, his background as a miner, his career in Alaska politics, and his position as Chair of the Senate Resources Committee. Chris never changed what he was saying depending on who he was talking to. He was as honest and genuine as it gets.

It’s hard to understand why things like this happen. It’s not fair. But I think the best way to honor Chris is to remember what kind of person he was and try to live your life the way he did. I know I will.

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Hawker Michael
4 years ago

Jeff, you often seem to cultivate and relish a role in the Great Alaska political discourse as the south end of a north bound beast of burden.

The sensitive beauty of the kind and sincere words of respect and caring in this posting show a seldom revealed sophistication and depth of spirit. Thank you for the well written words, my friend!

Chris was one of the truly good people in this world whose wisdom will be missed by all.

Rest In Peace, Chris.

Tali Birch Kindred
4 years ago

Jeff, what a wonderful tribute. He was proud of the work you were doing, he delighted in the work and success of his friends. Best, Tali