Sen. Chris Birch, Alaska engineer and politician, dies

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Sen. Birch died from a heart attack. The story has been updated.

The family of Sen. Chris Birch released a statement this morning on the passing of Birch to his Facebook page.

The statement says in part, "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."

Word came out about the senator’s passing late Wednesday night.

The family says Birch went into cardiac arrested and passed away from an an aortic dissection, a torn or ruptured aorta.

Many fellow lawmakers have taken to social media to share their condolences.

Gov. Dunleavy and First Lady Rose Dunleavy issued the following statement on the passing of Birch:

“Rose and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Senator Chris Birch. Chris was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. His immense contributions to the communities and the state will always be remembered. As an engineer, he was truly involved in building our great state. He was an ardent supporter of responsible resource development and utilizing our resource wealth to move our state forward. Alaska and her people will always be grateful for the service and commitment of Senator Birch. Our deepest prayers are with his wife Pam and his children and grandchildren.”

Dunleavy ordered flags to be flown at half staff from Friday, August 9 through Wednesday, August 14 in honor of the senator.

Senate President Cathy Giessel and Sen. Natasha von Imhof both 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," - Sen. Natasha von Imhof

Members of the Alaska House Majority also shared their thoughts on the late senator.

“Chris Birch’s life was simply beautiful. I remember him first as a dear friend, always positive and uplifting in his words and conduct. His smile was infectious and warmed people around him like a campfire on a cool night. His wife Pam and their kids and grandchildren were his highest joy. As a professional colleague, I marveled at his capacity to do his work with the utmost courage during very difficult times. He was fearless, comfortable in his own skin, and honorable toward everyone. We lost a leader, husband, father, grandfather, and friend.”
– Rep. Chuck Kopp (R-Anchorage)

“Allan and I have lost a dear personal friend, and the State of Alaska has lost a great leader.”
– Rep. Jennifer Johnston (R-Anchorage)

“Life is short. We all know it, but it’s easy to forget. That simple fact snapped into focus when I learned of Chris Birch’s passing. Above all, I will remember Chris as a family man. His wife, Pam, his children, and his grandchildren are all in my thoughts and prayers. I will also remember Chris’ fierce advocacy as a legislator for what he believed was in the best interests of the people he represented. We’ve lost a true Alaskan statesman.”
– House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham)

Members of Alaska House Republicans also released the following statements:

“Marta and I are shocked and saddened at the passing of Chris Birch,” said Rep. Josh Revak, “Chris filled every room with energy and enthusiasm. He was unwavering in his dedication and love for Alaska. Our hearts are broken for his family, and we will keep them in our prayers during this difficult time.”

I am absolutely devastated by the news that my friend Chris Birch has passed,” wrote Rep. Lance Pruitt, “All the prayers of comfort to Pam and the family during this unexpected time of grief. Alaska has lost a great person and public servant. He will truly be missed.”

“’My Representative was always his greeting to me every time we crossed paths,” added Rep. Laddie Shaw, “He was forever smiling and enthusiastic about life. This is a sad day for our community and for Alaska. I will miss our banter over politics, but more importantly, I will truly miss ‘My Senator.’”

According to Sen. Birch’s page on the Alaska State Legislature’s website, Sen. Birch was born in Sterling, Illinois.

He spent over 50 years in Alaska.

He earned 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.

In 2016, Birch was elected to a two-year term in the Alaska State House of Representatives representing South Anchorage House District 26.

In 2018, Birch was elected to represent District M in the Alaska State Senate.

His tenure was set to wrap up 2023.

He is survived by his wife, Pam, two children and four grandchildren.

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