Donnie Covington has spent much of his life getting people out of jams.
Lifting them up when they find themselves in a deep, dark place.
Helping them get rightside up again after they go head over heels, suddenly upside down in an instant.
Donnie Covington runs a tow truck.
The East Enterprise resident, who has dedicated much of his life to serving others — on the job and off — has been recognized nationally for his lifetime of service. On Saturday evening, November 17th, the American Towman Association presented Covington with the “Order of the Towman” — it’s highest honor. The award, which was given to just 52 tow operators in the country, was presented during a ceremony held at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Covington’s award was accepted on his behalf by his son, Brian, and daughter-in-law, Carol.
Covington was nominated for the award by Jeff Darling, fire chief at the East Enterprise Volunteer Fire Department. The association only accepts nominations from fire chiefs and police chiefs — those public servants who work most closely with tow operators.
“The group sends out information about nominating people to police chiefs and fire chiefs every year,” Covington said. “The way I understand it, out of the United States there was 52 of us, out of the whole United States, and there was five from Indiana.”
Covington said that the award is in recognition for the things that the honoree does for the community he serves.
“I’ve done this for 34 years,” he said. “I’ve been through seven sheriffs.”
Donnie Covington was born on Bennett Road, behind Markland, the son of Paul and Eva Covington. He was the youngest of five children — three sisters and one brother — and at age 82, he’s the only one still living. Paul Covington farmed and also worked off of the farm. Donnie graduated from Patriot High School in 1954, and went to work.
“We ran a garage, and before that I hauled milk about all my life,” Covington said. “I hauled on my own and also hauled for Bob Park. Those Park boys always seemed like my own brothers. I started the wrecker business 34 years ago. J.D. Leap was Sheriff. He was a good one.”
And how’s the business changed over more than three decades?
“The get more in love with the wreckers than what they used to do, when you go to buy one,” Donnie says with a laugh. “The price doesn’t go down.”
Covington started with one wrecker, and now has four available in his fleet.
It’s also a family business, as it has been Covington and Sons Towing from the very beginning. Son Brian continues to be heavily involved in the business, as is grandson A.J. — so there is a true legacy for the family.
“All I do is drive when we go out,” Donnie grins. “A.J. does all the hooking. He’s sharp. He knows what he’s doing.”
Covington estimates that he responds to well over 100 calls in a year; noting the uncertain nature of the business means that some weeks there may be four or five calls; while in other weeks there aren’t any calls.
And over 34 years and all of those calls, Covington reflects that many times it’s more than just taking care of a wrecked vehicle.
“I hate to go to one where there’s a death, but, you know, that happens,” he said. “We’ve helped the undertakers quite a few times get a body out. That goes with it.”
Donnie Covington laughs when he says that he first met Pansy Scudder when she chased him around the Allensville School.
“I won’t tell you why I run from her,” he laughs. “We were in about the seventh grade. That’s been a long time ago.”
Pansy graduated from Vevay High School in 1955, and the two were married on June 30th of 1956.
“That don’t happen that often,” Donnie says. “It will be 63 years this coming June.”
The couple first lived in Fairview, and moved to their current home on Markland Pike in 1976.
And while Donnie was serving the community with the tow business, Pansy has an impressive record of service to the county’s school children. This is her 49th year driving a school bus for the Switzerland County School Corporation.
“It’s basically the same route, but it’s still route 23,” Pansy said. “It’s on McCreary’s Ridge and Red Hog Pike.”
In addition to the service he provides with his business, Covington has also given of his time to the community in other ways.
He served as the District 4 representative to the Switzerland County Council for 24 years, retiring in 2010. He also spent 25 years serving on the East Enterprise Volunteer Fire Department.
“It’s been a long time,” Covington says. “I’ve lived in Switzerland County all my life. I seen a lot of things and helped a lot of people.”