ST. PAUL — The fire department became
a fire district, personnel turned over and its culture
and identity changed with the times, but the late Circle
Pines Fire Chief Robert LaValle was not forgotten.
The Centennial Fire District honored LaValle at the
Minnesota Firefighter Memorial dedication Sept. 30 on
the State Capitol grounds. Over 200 families who had
lost a lost a firefighting loved one were honored at
“It was absolutely wonderful and very moving,”
said Darlene LaValle, LaValle’s widow, who attended
the event with other family members.
Bob LaValle died in the line of duty in 1980 at the
age of 43. It was the day after Halloween, and he was
ready to go to a party hosted by a fellow firefighter.
A call came in, and LaValle suffered a massive heart
attack responding. Last month, LaValle’s name
was inscribed at the memorial, recently moved from the
Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to the state
“We should never forget those who have lost their
lives serving others,” Centennial Fire Chief Jerry
Streich said. The Centennial Fire District organized
and distributed ceremonial flags to all 207 families
who were honored at the event.
Darlene LaValle remembers how much her late husband
loved working at the fire department. He began as a
volunteer and worked his way up to the chief post, working
as a firefighter from 1963 until he died.
LaValle was especially active in waterball competitions,
a firefighter game. Opposing sides use a fire hose to
spray a suspended ball across boundary line. The game
allows firefighters to practice using and aiming hoses
while engaging in friendly competition.
“He was very successful at it,” Darlene
recalled. “We had so many trophies we almost ran
out of room.”
The 6,000-square-foot memorial at the Capitol depicts
a firefighter rescuing a child among a grid of metal
columns. The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation raised
more than $600,000 to fund the memorial.