Kent Nolan Birch

Kent Nolan Birch Kent Nolan Birch passed away at home in Ridgecrest on July 20, 2013, with his partner at his side. He was 63.

A local memorial service was held at Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church on July 23. A second service will be held in Duchesne, Utah, on a date not yet determined, for extended family.

Kent was born on Dec. 18, 1949, to Max and Fontella Birch in Duchesne. He was the youngest of five children. After graduation from Duchesne High School, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

During summers, he apprenticed with his brother, Udell Birch, in carpentry, a skill that later defined much of his life.

After graduation, Kent pursued jobs in radio advertising, which, in time, lead him to California in his Volkswagen Rabbit. This car led to quite a few adventures on the road as it broke down repeatedly. In time, the last stop for the Rabbit was Ridgecrest, where Kent took a technical editing job and soon found it did not suit him.

With encouragement and some startup support from James Rieger, Kent returned to his skills as a carpenter, got a general contractor’s license, and took on the challenge of self-employment. He was successful; many homes in Ridgecrest Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Lake Hughes, San Diego, Tucson and Salinas feature his work, often as custom cabinetry. He never advertised, relying on word of mouth and a business card for his trade.

Kent had an active social life. He enjoyed biking, swimming and bodybuilding, as well as writing travel pieces. He also enjoyed stage plays and musicals, reading, fine dining, wine, coffee and, as a treat by good friends, very old Scotch. He learned physics and differential equations in his last two years of life because he could and taught the art of fiction writing to his husband.

Kent tried his hand at singing and acting in the CLOTA plays “Noises Off” and “Hello Dolly,” in which he played Cornelius. For this part, he took singing lessons to hone his voice, which later was used in the coir at Satin Michael’s for many years. His last service to the Episcopal Church was as a deacon.

Kent married his partner of 22 years at Saint Michael’s on July 11, 2013. Theirs was the first same-sex marriage in Eastern Kern County, in the Episcopalian Diocese of San Joaquin and possibly in Kern County. Kent is survived by his husband, Steven Howe; sisters Maxine Panas and Colene Nelson; brothers Don Birch and Udell Birch, many nieces and nephews, numerous friends and Cosmo, his faithful dog.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Max and Fontella and friend James Rieger.

Submitted by the family of Kent Nolan Birch

Story First Published: 2013-07-31