SUN CITY, Calif. -- Malcolm Francis Birch of Sun City, Calif., a longtime Sierra Madre resident who for almost 20 years managed a landmark restaurant in Pasadena, died Thursday evening, Oct. 16, of complications from a series of strokes. He was 85 years old. Born in Blauvelt, N.Y., Mr. Birch was the son of a Pearl River police lieutenant, Frank Birch, known for his tolerance of errant motorists and leniency to juvenile delinquents. Mr. Birch's mother, the former Anna Mae Schmeelk Birch, a Brooklyn native of Dutch descent, was a Republican party activist who raised two sons during the Great Depression.
After graduating from Nyack High School in Rockland County, N.Y., Mr. Birch served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, mostly at bases in Texas. There, he was a specialist in the maintenance and repair of the B-24 Liberator bomber – and liked to tell of how, on "shakeout flights" pilots would turn hastily-built aircraft upside down over the desert, so all the tools would fall out.
He was a boxer and wrestler in high school, and a decorated sharpshooter in the Air Corps. Once, he and another airman, on a dare, swam from a point on Matagorda Island, off the Texas Coast, to the mainland. Both nearly drowned when a powerful current swept them toward the gulf. Both were strong enough swimmers to make it to shore. After the war, he returned to Blauvelt, where he met Yvonne Elizabeth Pettite, a Rockland County native who had served as a WAVE stationed in Oakland, Calif..
After their marriage, they moved west, arriving in Pasadena, Calif., in May 1948. A few years later they bought a home on Ramona Street in Sierra Madre, where they lived for the next 14 years, raising all three of their children there. Mal, as his friends called him, worked for many years during the day as a precision machinist at a Pasadena aerospace company, Consolidated Electrodynamics Corp., later part of the Bell & Howell Corp. There, he helped build advanced calibration and testing equipment, including an advanced version -- for its time -- of the mass spectrometer, used to detect and identify the presence of different elements. He also worked on instruments to detect vibration in fighter aircraft.
But he is probably best known as the former manager of the Seafood Tavern restaurant on Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena, one of the best-known fish restaurants on the West Coast. It was torn down to make way for a gasoline station in 1968.
He was a member of the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association, and of the Sierra Madre Congregational Church.
In 1969, Mr. Birch and his wife moved to Northern San Diego County, first to Vista and later to Carlsbad, where they lived until four years ago. During that time, he worked as manager in several area restaurants and resorts, including the Quails Inn in Lake San Marcos; the San Luis Rey Country Club, in Bonsall, Calif.; and the Ivanhoe in Poway, Calif.
Long after his retirement in the late 1980s, to keep active, he worked as a server and salad bar attendant at a Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Carlsbad. In all, he worked in the restaurant industry for about 40 years. No matter what he did, he threw himself into the job. "He had a restlessness about him," said his wife, Yvonne. "He always had to be working – to be moving and doing something."
He loved reading newspapers and biographies, sleeping in front of the television and Broadway musicals. He disliked getting stuck behind trucks on the highway, button-down shirts and, for some reason, the veteran character actor Orson Bean.
His skills as a cook were severely limited, but he made an outstanding carrot cake. He had a sharp wit, and appreciated it in others. "He believed in the truth above everything else," Yvonne said. "Sometimes to the point where it hurt people's feelings. But he couldn't stand people who lied."
Mr. Birch loved to talk about politics, but didn't fit any mold. He was a Republican who thought the government should do more for the poor and a marksman who argued for stricter gun control laws. His only hobby, aside from politics, was gardening -- which he engaged in with characteristic determination.
Mr. Birch moved to Sun City, in Riverside County in 1999. After a series of small but increasingly debilitating strokes, he lived in nursing homes -- most recently the Village Square Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in San Marcos, Calif., not far from a restaurant he once managed. That's where he died.
Survivors include his wife, Yvonne "Betty" Birch; a daughter, Melissa Berry, an artist living in Berkeley, Calif.; two sons, Kevin F. Birch, an engineer with KPBS Television in San Diego, and Douglas M. Birch, Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. He is also survived by three granddaughters; Dharma A. Yamaguchi, of Oakland, Calif.; Avila K. Birch, of Berkeley; and Alison T. Birch, of Cambridge, Mass.
Internment is planned for Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma, Calif. No date has yet been set. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Alzheimer's Association. Donations can be made through their website: www.alz.org
Edward Colucci, 74, passed away September 12, 2003. He was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 15, 1929 and lived in Pasadena for 45 years. He had a lifelong career working in the radio and television industry. He was a cameraman at all the major network studios and later worked as a radio engineer at KLAC radio. After retiring from KLAC he began Colucci Sports Broadcasting and did sound & engineering at Santa Anita Racetrack. He also did contract work for professional sports teams at Staples Center, the Forum, Coliseum, and Dodger Stadium doing sound and engineering until his death. He served as a sergeant in the Korean War assigned to the 223rd Medical Division. He served as an usher at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Sierra Madre. For many years he was also the sports writer at the Sierra Madre News. He wrote a weekly column called "Behind the Wire."
He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Carole, of Pasadena: son David (Kris) of Alta Loma; daughter Leslie (Pat) Ross of Glendora; daughter Gina (Terry) Bensinger of Westlake Village; his sister Mary Apuzzo of Arcadia; and preceded in death by his brother Ralph. He adored his seven grandchildren, Christopher, Michelle, Scott, Derek, Dean, Eric, and Brandy.
Vigil will be 7:00 PM, Tuesday September 16 at Cabot & Sons in Pasadena, Calif. Mass will be held at 10:00 AM, Wednesday, September 17 at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Sierra Madre, CA.
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