Herman Dexter, builder

Herman Dexter, who has died at 93, was the last surviving sibling of a family firm that built more than 400 houses across the Wharfe and Aire valleys.

Herman Dexter

His largest project, with his brothers Roland and Bernard, was the Park Road estate in Menston, consisting of 35 stone detached houses and completed in the early 1970s.

Born in Hallam Street, Guiseley, in 1924, he was one of nine children and parents sharing a two-bedroom terrace house. Such was the poverty and the cramped conditions that, at night, he slept on the staircase rather than a bed.

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He left school at 14 and on the outbreak of the Second World War was left to run the household after his father and older brothers were called up. At 18 he was conscripted into the RAF and, after basic training in Shropshire was posted in November 1943 to Tobruk, Libya, where he worked with Italian and German Prisoners of War building airstrips.

He came under fire only once, when the convoy transporting him to North Africa was bombed by German aircraft in the Mediterranean. The attack coincided with his weekly shower on board ship and when the alarm sounded, he opted to finish his shower. When he emerged, the raid was over and he had missed the “excitement”.

Demobbed in 1946, after a year as a weaver in a textile mill, he moved into the construction industry, joining his older brothers in setting up the firm R B and H Dexter. In 1974, Herman set up his own building firm with Bernard, with his wife arranging on-site deliveries and negotiating prices for materials. He retired from the building trade in 1983.

Away from work, his main interests were singing and poetry, and he was a member of Guiseley Amateur Operatic Society for more than 40 years, taking principal tenor parts in The Desert Song and Vagabond King. It was at Guiseley where, in 1958, he met Margaret Earnshaw, a soprano from Otley. They were married in 1961.

He is survived by Margaret, children Mark and Joanne and four grandchildren.