May 2, 2013

Relatives comb fire scene for traces from Maine man's life

People reach out to Clyde Berry of Benton. A woman even gives him a trailer to replace his mobile home.

By AMY CALDER Morning Sentinel

BENTON – Clyde Berry sat in the rubble of what was once his bedroom, watching his relatives sift through the soot-covered piles all around him.

click image to enlarge

Clyde Berry on Thursday, May 2, 2013, speaks about the offers of help he has received amid the rubble of his home in Benton that was destroyed by fire last Monday. Looking for salvageable items in background are Barbara Berry, left, Jayme Sabins and Derrick Berry.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

Home owner Clyde Berry, left, speaks with state Fire Marshall's Office investigator Ken MacMaster outside the ruins of his home in Benton that was destroyed by fire early Monday, April 29, 2013.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Their faces and hands were streaked black, their clothes dirty.

They scraped with shovels, hoes and their bare hands, searching for anything salvageable from Berry's 60-plus years of living in his now-destroyed home. On Wednesday, they found his late wife's wedding rings.

"Gail's piggy bank," Berry's daughter-in-law, Barbara Berry, said as she unearthed a large pink ceramic pig and presented it to him.

Clyde Berry, 82, lost nearly everything in a fire early Monday at his double-wide mobile home at 1594 Benton Ave. He was uninsured. Fire officials said they suspect the fire started under the home because of an electrical problem.

Berry's most precious belongings were his two dogs -- Buster, a beagle, and Libby, a black Labrador retriever mix - and a cat, Baby. They are still missing.

Berry said the cat has a spot of white under his chin and white toes on all four paws.

"He had extra, extra, extra long white whiskers. He would follow me right around, just like a puppy dog."

As he spoke, he sat in a plastic lawn chair, recounting all the people who have come to help him over the last few days. The town of Benton is paying for him to stay at the American Lounge motel in Fairfield for 30 days, he said. People have been stopping at the fire site and donating $50 here and $20 there.

Hillman's Bakery in Fairfield, where Berry's niece, Sharon Stowe, works, has a donation can on the counter for him.

One woman bought him a box of brand new dishes and silverware and others have donated clothes, but the most generous gift came from a Fairfield woman, Lisa Sylvain, who is giving him a trailer that will be placed on his property once the debris is cleaned up.

"Our silver lining came yesterday morning when we got that call for the trailer," said Barbara Berry, 29. "She's a life saver, really. People don't realize how much she's saving Clyde by giving him the trailer, just out of the goodness of her heart."

The trailer is an older mobile home from the 1960s, but it has new wiring and pipes, as well as a new hardwood floor, Derrick and Barbara Berry said.

Clyde Berry said he did not know how to thank all the people, many of whom he does not know. They have helped to raise his spirits.

"I feel a little better," he said. "It feels good, knowing that there's people out there that's not enemies."

Losing his belongings and the memorabilia his late wife collected over the years has been hard, he said.

"It changes your life, loss, things like that," he said.


Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:


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