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A moving ceremony as new inductees enter the New York State Oil Producers Wall of Fame

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On Friday, June 23, six individuals were honored with induction into the New York State Oil Producers’ Association (NYSOPA) Wall of Fame in a moving ceremony at the Pioneer Oil Museum in Bolivar.  Honored were the late Bob Benson, Al Fenner, Bob Keller, David Haskins, Bill Cline, and Dave Hollister, each of whom made significant contributions to the oil and gas industry in the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania. The Wall of Fame began in 2005 and now has 70 inductees with the inclusion of this year’s class.

The ceremony began with the Museum’s vice-president, Kelly Lounsberry, providing remarks about the work completed by the museum over the past year. Included in these accomplishments was upgraded flood protection at the museum along with repairs to the Triangle No. 1 monument in Allentown that was vandalized last summer. He also discussed future plans for the museum’s building expansion along with other upcoming projects.

After the presentation of a large plaque with biographical information and a photograph, a family member for each inductee provided thanks and some memories. 

Here are the photos and the words from family members during the ceremony:

AL FENNER

The family of the late Al Fenner

The initial inductee into the Wall of Fame was Al Fenner, a Bolivar-area oil well “shooter,” a practice using nitroglycerine and dynamite to increase underground flow of the crude oil.

Fenner’s son, Rick, noted the dangers in this profession.

“I have memories of my mom waiting for dad to come home after shooting a well,” Rick Fenner said. “She’d wait for him to make the turn onto Salt Rising Road where we lived.  As soon as she recognized his headlights, there was a sigh of relief that everything was fine, and he had come home again.”  

He also praised other members of the oil drilling companies.

“Shooting was a dangerous job, but the fellas on the rig deserve credit for what they did.  It was such a team effort; Dad was just part of the team,” Rick added. “The tool dressers worked 24/7, 365 days in all types of weather.  They should all be in our hearts and memories.”

DAVE HOLLISTER

Family of the late Dave Hollister

Joe Hollister described his younger brother Dave as an outdoorsman. 

“Dave wanted to work outside; he never wanted to be in a factory.  He wanted nature.  What he found was the oil field business, and he really loved it!  I think he’d feel honored with this wonderful award,” Joe Hollister said. “His heart was always in Allegany County and especially in our Bolivar-Richburg community.” 

A fun-loving person, Hollister described his brother by noting, “Dave loved all aspects of the oilfield business, especially the lease parties.”

BOB KELLER

Family of the late Bob Keller

Traveling all the way from New Hampshire, Dave Keller was honored with this award for his father Bob after waiting several years for it to happen.

“Our family is deeply grateful for the hard work and dedication of the Pioneer Oil Museum and its many volunteers who have made this day and award possible in recognizing the oil industry’s roots in the great town of Bolivar,” Dave Keller said. “My father worked over 60 years producing in the Allegany field. We thank the museum and NYSOPA for recognizing and honoring his dedication and labor in the oil industry.”

DAVID HASKINS

Family of the late David Haskins

David Haskins’ induction into this Hall of Fame makes for the second Haskins family member to be included, as his father Bayard was inducted in 2008. David’s son Mark was honored by this award.

“My father would’ve loved to be here with a microphone in his hands because he loved to tell stories. I was fortunate to have had this great opportunity to work side-by-side with my father,” Mark Haskins said. “It was a great opportunity, and this is a great way to honor him.”

BILL CLINE

Family of the late Bill Cline

Bradford’s Bill Cline was inducted for a lifetime of work in the Twin Tiers. His wife Joyce was in awe of his induction.

“I graciously accept the honor from NYSOPA that is conferred on my late husband by adding him to the Wall of Fame here at the Pioneer Oil Museum,” she said. “He now shares an honored position with these individuals who made significant contributions to the oil and gas industry.”

An article at the time of Bill’s passing published in the newsletter from the Penn-Brad Oil Museum in Bradford provided more information for Mrs. Cline to provide.  “For those of you who did not know Bill, he was the true definition of an old-fashioned gentleman.  He was the senior statesman of the Bradford oil field, and he was always willing to help out if a fellow oilman had a problem.  

“After returning from World War II, Bill founded Cline Oil where he served as president for over 60 years.  He was always a passionate advocate for the small oil and gas producers, both locally and statewide.  This newsletter could easily be filled with his lifetime achievements and contributions.”

“Bill’s company owned the locally famous Cline Oil #1 well which was drilled in the early 1870’s and is Bradford’s oldest producing well.  It is located in the drive-through of McDonald’s Restaurant in Bradford.”

BOB BENSON

Family of the late Bob Benson

Bryce Benson discussed his father, Bob Benson’s belief in education and hard work. 

“Though he did not complete high school because his education was interrupted by World War II, my dad had a strong belief in education,” Bryce Benson said. “I never heard him talk much about being anything self-made, but he was proud of that. He was proud of people who went on and became educated.  He was a voracious reader and always strived to become more educated.”

“Eventually he began his career as an independent oil and gas producers. He had some forays into the drilling business that went well, and family members of the inductees here tonight understand that that takes a lot of long hours and a lot of time and energy,” Bryce continued. “You really need that entrepreneurial spirit.  You need to be aggressive and believe in your ideas.”

Bryce saw many young people in attendance at the ceremony, and he felt that his father would tell them, “If you have an idea, and even if people around you think it’s a little bit outside the box, believe in it.  You might be successful.  My dad was one of the very few independents ever to successfully drill into the Oriskany Formation in regards to natural gas.  Thinking outside the box was a way to stay relevant and stay in business.”

Benson joined his father Harold and brother Glen who were inducted into the Wall of Fame in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

In addition to the induction ceremony, there was a wine-and-cheese tasting with a crowd of over 200 in attendance for both events.

During the course of the evening, many of the guests visited the Joyce Building where antique oilfield engines were in operation, creating lots of noise and smoke to entertain the visitors.  Two other exhibit buildings were also available to the public, and a blacksmith demonstration took place on the grounds.

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