In his father’s memory: Zionsville man gifts father’s house to ZFD for training purposes


Gary Coval said he felt a bit guilty about his plans to tear down his parents’ lifelong home this spring. But then his wife, Ellen, came up with a way to use the house to honor the memory and service of her husband’s late father, Bob Coval.

Bob Coval, a lifelong Zionsville resident who graduated from Zionsville Community High School in 1943, was an active member of the community until his death in 2011 at age 86.

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Bob Coval at the Lions Club. (Photo courtesy of Gary Coval)

Bob Coval was a member of the Lions Club for 64 years and was its president in 1964. He received the Town Crier Award in 2001, was an elder at Zionsville Christian Church and was one of the longest-tenured volunteer firefighters in Zionsville history, serving from 1949 until 1996.

In short, Bob Coval spent most of his life investing in Zionsville.

Now, the house at 465 Isenhour Hills Drive that he built and lived in from 1953 until his passing, is being gifted to the Zionsville Fire Dept. in his honor. The department will use it for training exercises until it is torn down. Gary Coval, 59, doesn’t have specific plans for the property but determined the house was too old to salvage.

“I have to give my wife the credit here,” Gary Coval said. “She came up with the idea to see if the fire department would want to use the house for their training exercises before its demolition, and they jumped on the offer, as this opportunity is not always readily available for them.”

Ellen Coval said the idea came to her naturally, citing the decades-long influence her husband’s family has had on her.

“They have always had such giving hearts,” Ellen Coval said. “Once we came to the conclusion to tear the house down, I thought, ‘What better way to honor Bob than to allow the fire department to do some training in it first?’ It’s nice to keep with the Coval tradition and give back to Zionsville in this small way.”

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Photo of Zionsville Volunteer Fire Department from 1948, Bob is third from left. (Photo courtesy of Gary Coval)

Although the decision to tear down his childhood home was difficult, Gary said the fact that the home is going out in a way that honors his father is comforting.

“It ties everything together,” Gary said. “The property has never been owned by anyone else other than our family. To use the house in this way, it’s just an honor.”

Since the passing of his father and mother, Joan, in recent years, Gary said he’s finally ready to make some changes to the property and is excited to keep it in the family.

“We don’t have plans for what we’re going to build there yet, but I couldn’t see it going out of the family,” Coval said. “Although the house was built very well, it’s very old and the rooms are very small. My bedroom growing up was about 4-by-8-feet big, and my walk-in closet today is bigger than my room was.”

Gary, co-owner of CEP Sales Inc. in Zionsville, said that some people have tried to convince him to remodel the home, but he doesn’t want to.

“If we remodeled, it wouldn’t be the same house,” he said. “I wouldn’t recognize it, so I don’t see the point. I just know we’d be disappointed if we didn’t do something special with that property.”

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Gary Coval displays a photo of his late parents Bob and Joan Coval. (Photo by Rachel Greenberg)

Firefighter training

Zionsville Fire Dept. Chief of Training and Safety Aaron Gibbons said the ZFD plans to use Coval’s old home through March to conduct training exercises that are designed to help firefighters deal with realistic situations.

The exercises are set to begin the week of Feb. 21.

“We plan on running multiple scenarios at the acquired structure that our firefighters will treat as an actual response,” Gibbons said. “This allows us to create real-life scenarios in a controlled environment to sharpen our firefighters’ skills.”

Gibbons said firefighters weren’t informed of the location until the day training began to help them respond as they would to an actual call and use tactics to mitigate the situation presented when they arrive.

A few of the specific training exercises include stretching hose lines to a simulated fire, search and rescue for victims, ventilation and EMS.