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The cheesemaker's daughter
Virginia Fuchssteiner sits in front of the large photograph of her father Benedeckt Roder inside the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, Tuesday, April 8. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - A photo of a man known as the mysterious "icon" of the National Historic Cheesemaking Center was identified by none other than his own daughter.

Virginia Fuchssteiner saw the photo of a man cutting cheese curds in a January edition of The Monroe Times and said, "Gee, that looks like my dad." Fuchssteiner wasn't living in the area when the photo was originally put up in 1994, while employees of the National Historic Cheesemaking Center were attempting to identify the man.

"We made every effort to find out who he was," Mary Ann Hanna, chair of the center, said. "Because he is our icon."

The photograph is very crisp for it having been taken sometime in the early 1900s. Fuchssteiner couldn't quite say when the photo was taken, but compared it to a framed picture of her parents' wedding in 1909, and figured it was around 1915. Fuchssteiner said her father, Benedeckt Roder, lived and worked at the Keylock Brooklyn cheese factory for about seven years with his wife and six children. Fuchssteiner said her father was born in 1880 and was a hardworking man who always stayed busy. She said he loved to bake and would make all manner of Swiss-inspired baked goods.

"Everything had cheese in it," Fuchssteiner said.

Fuchssteiner said when she saw the photo, she was pretty sure it was of her father, but asked her friend Nancy Beckwith to verify. Beckwith, who works in a restaurant in Attica, said it had to be Fuchssteiner's father and then called the center.

"Makes you wonder who took that picture," Beckwith said.

Hanna said the photo was donated with a set of other pictures given by Albert Deppeler. Hanna gestured with her hands that the photos were about the size of an 8.5-inch by 11-inch sheet of paper. Now it is blown up to larger-than-life size in the second room of the center.

Fuchssteiner said she and her three sisters were born in Chicago and the family moved to Wisconsin where her two brothers were born. Fuchssteiner, who is celebrating her 90th birthday today, April 10, said she and her siblings used to go fishing in the Sugar River.

"Us kids always got along together," she said.

She said her father was very handy and made everything from a rock garden to the boxes for the cheese factory to sheet metal when he was a factory worker.

"I never met a man who could do as much stuff as he could," she said.