Karen Joyce Semler, 82, a longtime area resident and businesswoman, passed away Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, at The Bird House Hospice Home of Johnson County. Celebration of Life services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service. There will be a time of visitation one hour before the service and following the service Saturday at the funeral home. Private family graveside services will be held at Oak Hill Cemetery in Coralville. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made in Karen's memory to The Bird House Hospice Home of Johnson County, 8 Lime Kiln Lane NE, Iowa City, IA 52240; Iowa City Hospice, 1025 Wade St., Iowa City, IA 52240; or Johnson County Humane Society, 3910 Napoleon Lane, Iowa City, IA 52240.
Karen is survived by her husband, Lee Semler; their son and his wife, Shane and Lisa Semler; her sister, Kathy Carney and husband, Ed; nephew, Erik Mickalson and wife, Tracy, and their children, Macy and Marley; sister-in-law, Ruth Semler; and numerous relatives in Iowa City and the surrounding area.
Karen was preceded in death by her son, Shannon Semler; her parents, Joseph and Muriel (Wells) Brenneman; and Lee's siblings, Donald Semler (Loretta), Joe Semler, Dorothy Lemley (Leo), Clara Jordan (Keith), George Semler (Gertrude) and Ed Semler.
Karen was born Sept. 24, 1936, in Iowa City, Iowa. She graduated from Iowa City High School in 1954 and Iowa City Mercy School of Nursing in 1957. She married Leo Wayne Semler on Feb. 14, 1959. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day of this year.
Karen worked for eight years as a registered nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics before she and her husband, Lee, opened an office for American Family Insurance Co. in Coralville in 1963. The couple worked hard, and this agency became one of the most successful agencies in American Family's history. Karen and Lee received numerous recognitions and awards over their 29 years with the company. During this time, they also started Chill 'N Grill Restaurant on North Linn Street in 1988, which they owned and operated with their sons, eventually selling their business in 2004.
Karen was Mom to every child or young adult who came into her life through her sons and their friends, many employees, UI students and patrons of the restaurant. She had a huge heart and a loving spirit, and it was an automatic response for her to love, nurture and support anyone who was down-and-out or had a special need. Her welcoming soul was filled with kindness and generosity. She was an inspiration to everyone around her.
Karen was a believer in giving back and paying forward to the community. She was involved and served on numerous business and community groups over the years. She also enjoyed the social aspect of her life as an active member of the Moose Club and VFW. She and Lee both were avid golfers who could be found on either Fairview or Hi Point golf courses most any day that was good for golfing. They also both enjoyed bowling for many years at the former Coral Lanes and Colonial Lanes. In fact, Karen still was bowling last year. When she had spare time, she enjoyed crossword puzzles and playing cards, and she especially cherished any occasion that involved being with family and friends.