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A 40th birthday isn't every woman's idea of a good time. But when Kate Burke of Santa Rosa hit that milestone days ago, she celebrated like someone who'd been told she'd miss her own party.

Kate, who used to run LifeTouch School Pictures with her husband, Brian, was given about six months to live when she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.

That was two years ago. At the big birthday party on her block off Coffey Lane, the mother of two thanked God, her UCSF doctors and everybody in her life for helping to keep her going.

Kate's making good use of her time. Through her Web site on www.caringbridge.org, she has counseled and encouraged thousands of people with cancer.

"I've never complained about turning older," she said on her birthday, "especially today."

A COMMITTED FELON: Don't expect District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua's re-election campaign to make a stink about discovering that among the donors to challenger Jill Ravitch is a Felon - specifically, a Santa Rosa woman named Anne Felon.

Folks on the Ravitch campaign read the donor lists, too, and they could fire back that Passalacqua's backers include one Harry Swindle, also of Santa Rosa.

So they're even.

SIGNING OFF, FOR NOW: Cloverdale is about to say good-bye to a newspaper columnist who has tickled and enlightened readers since she was 9 years old.

Hailey Sibert, now all of 11, is moving away.

Her dad, Don, has a new job up near Shasta County's Burney Falls, so Hailey is bidding farewell to her friends at Washington Middle School and her readers at the Cloverdale Reveille. The freckle-faced fireball has been meeting deadlines and writing about all manner of things - goals, pets, holidays, you name it - since Reveille columnist Paula Wrenn invited her to share Wrenn's space once a month.

Sandra Sibert said her daughter is a natural writer who has filled journals and spoken seriously about becoming a novelist for about as long as she's been able to grip a pen.

Hailey will say in her final column that though she'll miss her lifelong friends there's a lot to do in Burney, "like bowling, fishing and camping. It snows up there, too. SNOW!!! We may have a white Christmas for once."

ODE TO TAXPAYERS: At a time when music programs are dying out at many schools, young musicians at Sebastopol's Brook Haven Middle School are flourishing.

More than 40 kids in two Brook Haven bands performed with gusto at Santa Rosa's Downtown Market and in Sebastopol's Apple Blossom Parade.

A year ago, there weren't even 10band students at Brook Haven, and music education was hurting also at its sister schools, Pine Crest and Park Side.

The difference came with the parcel tax measure that voters in the Sebastopol Union School District approved in order to keep music and arts alive in their schools.

David Wheeler, the principal at Brook Haven, likes to listen to the sweet sound made by the 40-some kids in the bands and imagine how it will be when there are 100.

THEY CAN'T LOSE: Don't know if you caught the slogan on the very clever Sonoma State University T-shirt pictured the other day with the story on the plan for Barnes & Noble to take over the campus bookstore.

The printing on the shirt says "SSU Football: Undefeated Since 1996."

Good one - 1996 was the year Sonoma State scrubbed its football program.

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