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Ask anyone in Lone Tree, and they will say that Karen Forbes is one of the best cooks in Johnson County. No. The BEST cook in Johnson County.
Forbes was born and raised in Lone Tree, graduated from the Lone Tree High School, studied business education at the University of Northern Iowa, and started her career at Farmers and Merchants Bank.
But her real passion was cooking. In the early 1990s, she made a career change and opened BJ’s Locker Room on West Commercial Street. It was a bar and grill that featured live music provided by local bands every Saturday for more than a decade.
In 1999, she opened Karen’s Kones, an ice cream and sandwich shop first located in a tiny storefront next to what is now Gussie’s on Devoe Street, then on the corner of Jayne and Devoe.
The second location had an outdoor space with tables and was a popular summer gathering place for kids until it closed in 2007.
Her next project was Karen’s Corner Tap Barbeque Restaurant, and her most recent has been as manager of the Blue Top Tap on the corner of Devoe and Commercial.
But that came to a halt May 7, when she suffered a stroke. She spent over a month at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. Her family reports that she is recovering slowly but steadily.
Karen Forbes’ other passion was the city and the people of Lone Tree. She was always there to volunteer time and food to benefits, fundraisers and numerous community events.
While she was still at the bank, Cedar Rapids ABC affiliate, KCRG-TV, granted her an award for “Those Who Care.”
When news came out about Karen’s illness, her friends rallied and organized a fund-raising cruise – all vehicles welcome – from Lone Tree to Conesville to Nichols to West Liberty to Hills and back to Lone Tree to take place Saturday, Aug. 4.
Registration is at the Blue Top Tap starting at 10 a.m., vehicles out by noon and return by 4 p.m. to the Lone Tree American Legion for a 50/50 drawing and silent and live auctions.
The flier for the event said, “Karen has always been a huge supporter of Lone Tree and surrounding communities. It is time for us to return the support and help Karen with her fight to be healthy and independent.”
On June 28, the city of Lone Tree issued a proclamation that read in part: “Whereas Karen Kay Forbes has proven herself an exemplary resident of Lone Tree through many years… Be It Resolved that the City of Lone Tree, County of Johnson, State of Iowa, does hereby honor Karen Kay Forbes, offers her wishes for a speedy recovery and a return to vigorous health.”