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By Craig Braack

Oil Producers Association names six to state Wall of Fame at museum in Bolivar; event on June 23

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Bob Benson, Bill Cline, Al Fenner, Bob Keller, Dave Hollister, and David Haskins will be inducted

On Friday, June 23, the New York State Oil Producers’ Association (NYSOPA) will induct six into its Wall of Fame located at the Pioneer Oil Museum’s Hahn & Schaffner site on Boss Street in Bolivar

The public is invited to the attend the festivities, which begin at 6 p.m. with the induction ceremony, followed by a wine and cheese tasting.

Tickets for the wine tasting cost $20 and may be purchased at the Pioneer Oil Museum’s Main Street site, the Bolivar Free Library, via mail, or the night of the event. (visit their website HERE)

Honored that night will be Bob Benson, Bill Cline, Al Fenner, Bob Keller, Dave Hollister, and David Haskins. Each man made a significant contribution to the oil/gas industry in the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania.

NYSOPA organized this Wall of Fame in 2005 to honor those individuals who had been involved with the local oil/gas industry anywhere from the late 1800’s until present day.

There are currently 64 names on the Wall of Fame, all honored posthumously. NYSOPA works in combination with the Pioneer Oil Museum, which compiles research on the honorees, displays the plaques, and provides the setting for the event.

Bronze plaques with the inductees’ photos will be placed on a wall in the museum. During the ceremony, family members will be provided time to speak about their loved ones.

New York State Oil Producers’ Association Wall of Fame biographies of the 2023 Inductees

Al Fenner – (1914- 1972)

Al Fenner was a graduate of Bradford High School in Bradford, Pennsylvania. He was a member and past master of the Macedonia Lodge #258, F&AM in Bolivar, and a Justice of the Peace for a time for the Town of Bolivar. He was involved in numerous local children’s organizations including team manager and president of the local Little League and a leader for the Boy Scouts. He was a gifted softball pitcher for the Bolivar Men’s Team, and he was a fine bowler who placed fourth in the NYS Doubles Tournament in 1954. Al was employed as a nitroglycerin “shooter” for many years in the Bolivar area. He worked for the Otto Torpedo Company of Bolivar and Duke Center, Pennsylvania for some 25 years as well as for the Bolwell Torpedo Company shooting wells in many areas of Western New York.

Bob Keller – (1893-1980)

A veteran of World War I, among the battles Bob Keller fought in was the infamous Argonne Forest. He spent his entire life in the oil business starting as a youth “running tower.” In 1923, he became partners with Bill Hughes of Bolivar and Nat Hill of Portville. They purchased the Waid Oil Company located on Daggett Hollow, later changing the name to the Hill, Hughes, and Keller Oil Company. They started the pressure plant on that lease on December 23, 1923, and it ran 24/7 for 365 days a year thereafter until Bill cut back his work hours when he was 84 years old. Bill operated the Keller family lease on Daggett Hollow near West Clarksville. In the 1950’s, he bought the Gowdy Lease on Ford’s Brook with Sepp Hendrix. Late in his career at age 84, he was still pulling tubing with a 1938 red International Caterpillar tractor. When not working in the oilfields, Bill was a member of the American Legion Post #655 in Cuba.

Dave Hollister – (1952-1997)

Dave (“Red Beard”) Hollister lived his entire life in Bolivar, graduating from Bolivar Central School in 1971. He was a well-known and life-long oil producer in this area. He was employed as an independent oil field contractor for many years. He was the owner/producer of a number of small oil companies including Moore Producing, Inc. on Salt Rising Road, CHW Oil and Gas on Daggett Hollow, Empty Tank Oil, and Hopewell Oil Company. Dave was a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bolivar, and he was also a life member of the Bolivar Fire Department.

Bill Cline – (1925-2020)

Bill Cline was a life-long Bradford, PA resident. He served in World War II in the Pacific Theatre while stationed aboard the destroyer tender USS Hamul. Upon returning home, he fulfilled his lifelong dream of having his own oil production company (Cline Oil Inc.), a job that he carried on until his death. An advocate of the small oil producer, he served as president of the Bradford District Pennsylvania Oil Producers’ Association. He remained an active member of its successor organization, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association. He served as a member of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers (PIPP) for almost 40 years. Interested in educating local youth, he was instrumental in forming the original Petroleum Production Training class at Bradford Area High School in the 1970’s, and he helped write the curriculum for that course. Bill received numerous awards over the years for his years of service to the industry. In 2012, PIPP recognized him and his wife Joyce for their many years of leadership. In 2014, he received the Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award from the Petroleum History Institute, the highlight of his career.

David Haskins – (1924-2020)

A Wellsville High School graduate, Dave Haskins attended Columbia University before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving in Europe in World War II. He began his career in the oil business working for his father at Custer Oil Company in Wellsville which had leases and production in nearby Allentown. He also had positions with Wellsville-based Haskins Oil Company and Ebenezer Oil Company. His contributions to the oil and gas industry extended beyond New York State as Ebenezer branched out into other states such as Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, as well as into Canada. While working for Ebenezer, he worked as foreman where he oversaw drilling and production operations on various Alma Hill and Whitesville leases and for the McEbenwood lease in Andover. Dave was a member of the Board of Directors and held positions of secretary/treasurer and vice-president for Ebenezer. He was instrumental in an experimental program known as Maraflood. The Marathon Oil Company of Ohio utilized Ebenezer properties in nearby Allentown as a location to experiment their new program for water flooding. He was a member, director, and officer of the New York State Oil Producers’ Association (NYSOPA) as well as a life member of the Penn Grade Crude Oil Association. In 1991, he was honored by NYSOPA by receiving their “Chairman Emeritus” honor. Among the civic organizations Dave was involved in were the First Trust Company Bank (director), David A. Howe Library (director), and the Wellsville Lions Club. He was also elected to the Allegany County Legislature.

Bob Benson – (1927-2022)

Bob Benson attended Bolivar High School before dropping out at age 17 to join the Merchant Marines during World War II. He was later drafted into the US Army, serving during the Korean Conflict. Bob was employed for many years by Joyce Western in Andover, New York as a superintendent. Eventually he began a long career as an independent oil and gas producer, a position at which he worked through the end of his life. Bob was a member of the First Baptist Church of Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. He was a continuous 70-plus year member of the Shinglehouse American Legion Post 530, and he was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was a longtime member and had served on the Board of Directors of the New York State Oil Producers’ Association. Bob held memberships in the Sharon Lodge #598 F&AM in Shinglehouse, the Coudersport, Pennsylvania Consistory, and the Ismailia Shrine in Buffalo.

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