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Open dream bar, help cancer patients: Late son’s list keeps inspiring Johnson County family

Published: Jan. 17, 2021 at 10:29 PM CST
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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - It’s only been open since late November, but Pat & Fran’s Irish Pub in Coralville is becoming the place two of its owners, Karin and Rob Olson, want it to be: a neighborhood bar.

“We want to provide a good place for family and friends to get together,” Rob said.

Family is behind what they do at Pat & Fran’s — literally. A wedding photo of the bar’s namesakes and another owner’s grandparents, Pat and Fran, keep watch from the back wall over the bar.

Nearby on the wall is a family vacation photo of Rob with his arm around his son, Bo, the namesake of the menu’s Bobo Salad.

“People will try the salad because they want to try his salad,” Karin said.

We met then-24-year-old Bo in November of 2019, at a fundraiser at Hatchet Jacks in Iowa City to raise money for Bo’s medical costs as he underwent treatment for grade IV glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.

At that time, Bo sported scars along the side of his shaved head from two surgeries to remove a tumor from his brain.

But his positivity left an even bigger mark.

“I don’t have any complaints,” Bo said that day. “It’s affected me pretty minimally.”

But Bo’s cancer has no known cure. He died last August at the age of 25, fighting the disease for nearly three years, longer than the 15 months people with glioblastoma live past their diagnosis on average.

“Through the whole thing, he seemed to be more worried about other people — how we’re handling and what we’re doing — more so than himself,” Karin said Sunday at Pat & Fran’s.

Bo cared so much that he left a list for his family of things he wanted them to do, even if he wasn’t there to complete the list with them.

“We made it together,” Rob said.

On the list was opening their dream bar, a process the Olsons had started before Bo died.

“He wanted to make sure that we still followed through with that and continued that,” Karin said.

As the bar gets going, the Olsons plan to donate some of the proceeds to charity.

Giving to families through larger organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Shriners Hospitals for Children, or even starting their own charitable foundation, is another item on Bo’s list — especially, his parents said, to assist kids experiencing what he did.

“He wanted to help the families and those kids that were undergoing cancer treatments and in the hospital, and the parents having all those extra expenses and helping them with those expenses,” Karin said.

It all comes back to family at Pat & Fran’s.

“That’s what we’re all about,” Rob said.

And anyone who forgets can always find a reminder on the wall.

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