In Yates County, friendships forged by fire

It was the place where for over four decades, Dexter and Faith Benedict produced amazing works of art — his bronze sculptures of historical figures and her ceramics.

But on Nov. 1 of 2017, it was, as Dexter described it, “a smoldering heap of ash, debris and twisted metal,” the result of a devastating fire, possibly started by a propane leak.

Nearly everything in the Fire Works Foundry on Baker Road in this Yates County town was destroyed, even the bronze statue he was working on of William Seward and Harriet Tubman.

The loss was so devastating that Dexter pondered whether it was time to hang it up. The cost of replacing all that was lost was almost beyond comprehension.

Then LeRoy Hoover pedaled up on his bicycle in the early morning hours the day after the fire.

Hoover was one of the many Mennonite neighbors who came by the Benedicts’ home each day by bike or horse and buggy.

“To be honest, we waved to our Mennonite neighbors, but we didn’t know them,” said Dexter.

That was about to change in ways he and Faith could not have imagined.

“I’m your neighbor, and I build barns,” is how Dexter, a retired Keuka College art professor, recalls the conversation between he and Hoover, who could not be reached for comment for this story.

Hoover offered to build a new 2,500-square-foot studio for the couple.

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