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Santa Rosa's Kate Burke loses battle with cancer at 46

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 8:23 a.m.

Kate Burke, whose valiant fight against cancer and her family's love-fueled devotion to her was chronicled in Thursday's Press Democrat, died late Thursday afternoon at her Santa Rosa home. She was 46.

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Kate Burke

Burke family photo

Kathryn “Kate” McCartney Burke was surrounded by family and friends when she passed about 4:30 p.m., said her husband, Brian.

In April 2004, Burke had a seizure while her family was driving back from Disneyland. Three days later, she had another that put her in the hospital. A mass on her brain was detected and diagnosed eight weeks later as stage four glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer that often leads to death within a year.

Upon her diagnosis, Burke retired from Lifetouch National School Studios and devoted her life to her family and others fighting brain cancer.

“We decided that rather than invest in anything else, we would invest in memories with our family,” Brian Burke said.

For the next nine years, Burke worked on efforts to find a cure for cancer, educate others with similar diagnoses and support brain cancer research.

She traveled to Washington, D.C., with Livestrong to implore Congress to increase funding for cancer research, organized teams for fund-raising walks for the National Brain Tumor Society and spoke at health symposiums about living with a tumor.

She also served on the board of Kathy's Camp, created by the late Kathy Van Riper of Cotati to treat children in families dealing with cancer to a fun getaway.

For three years in a row, Burke emceed the National Brain Tumor Society's San Francisco cancer walk.

In 2010, Burke received the “Ya Gotta Believe!” award from the Tug McGraw Foundation, which highlights inspirational accomplishments of those who have overcome the odds though their personal strength.

“Kate loved life and lived it to the fullest – even before her diagnosis,” Brian Burke said.

In addition to her husband of 18 years, she is survived by her daughter, Riley, 17, a senior at Maria Carrillo High and her son, Colin, 14, an eighth-grader at Rincon Valley Middle School; her mother Jean McCartney and sister Jennifer DeGarmo, both of Janesville, Wisc.; brother Thomas McCartney of Elgin, Ill.; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Burke was involved in a variety of sports, music and extracurricular activities at Milton High School in Wisconsin. She graduated in 1984, serving as senior class president. She also graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

During college, Burke studied abroad in London, where she grew to love traveling and continued to visit new and exotic places throughout her adulthood, Brian Burke said. Later, she enjoyed many family trips, especially to Hawaii and Europe.

She began a career with Lifetouch National School Studios in 1989, where she met Brian two years later. Burke advanced through the management training program at Lifetouch in four years and was promoted to manager of the Santa Rosa territory in 1994. They married and moved to Santa Rosa that year.

A celebration of life will be held at 1 p.m. Feb. 23 at Spring Hills Community Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her honor to UCSF Brain Tumor Research Center, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA, 94145.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com

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