Published in The Washington Post on July 30, 2018
Birch Hitt Eakin
Died on July 16, 2018 in Sandy Spring, MD.
Birch was born on Nov. 21, 1918 in Burlington, WA, the son
of Henry Miner Eakin and Ruth Emma Hitt.
Henry was a geologist at USGS who mapped portions of
western Canada and Alaska; Mt. Henry Eakin was named
in his honor. Birch's earliest memories included the logging camp mess hall his father
converted into their family's home, the 160 acre farm they later moved to, and having to
walking two miles to attend a one-room school house. Another notable adventure was when
he was about eight years old when his mother drove him and his two older sisters to
Washington, DC in a Franklin automobile while his father finished working in Alaska.
During World War II, Birch was employed by the Naval Ordinance Lab (NOL) to test
ordinance at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. He returned home on leave where he met
Nora "Rachel" Taylor, fell in love, and they married December 8, 1945, a union that lasted for
62 years until her death in 2008. After the war Birch worked full time to take care of his wife
and twin sons and went to night school at George Washington University, where he
graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree. He developed two patents while at NOL,
then went to work for NASA, working on the Apollo, Skylab, and Space Exploration programs.
After retirement, he and Rachel traveled the U.S. and the world. While on his last adventure, a
safari to Tanzania and Zanzibar, he enjoyed a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti, seeing
a large bull elephant, and being a celebrity when the locals found out he was 91 years old. He
loved gardening, hunting, fishing, and working on his home and cars. Self-reliant, he could fix
almost anything; he designed and helped build his home in Maryland. He and Rachel enjoyed
a warm circle of neighborhood friends with whom they often traveled. He enjoyed a life-long
friendship with Tracy Mulligan; they hunted together until their late 80s. Birch often said, "Life
just doesn't get better than this!"
Birch is survived by his sons, David (Renée Tietjen), George (Nghi), James (Ruth Ann); five
grandchildren and one great-grandson.
A memorial reception will be held on Saturday, August 4, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the
Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, 11800 New Hampshire Ave, White Oak, MD, 20904.
Arrangements under the direction of:
Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home
11800 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVE | Silver Spring, MD 20904 | (301) 622-2299