World Record Try: Piece by Piece

From the Daily News, January 7, 2008

Ellis Anderson had plenty of time on his hands.

Things changed for the 79-year-old retiree after several other Troy residents decided to undertake the mission of completing the world's largest jigsaw puzzle.

Anderson, who is the oldest person to help in the puzzle project, said the puzzle brings back feelings of being a child again.

"When you get to my age you go back to your childhood," he said. "It's a lot of fun. I am retired, so I have a lot of time."

Anderson said the puzzle definitely is not easy.

"I'll tell you it's a real challenge," he said. "This is harder than working. It kind of blows you away."

Nancy Hepler has taken the lead in the project that will result in a finished picture - illustrating all aspects of nature, from the sea to the stars - that measures 5 feet high and 14 feet long. It will be hung on the wall in the children's area of the Troy Community Library. The puzzle was purchased for about $250 from worldslargestpuzzle.com.

While Troy won't be the first city in the world to complete the 24,000-piece, commercially produced puzzle, Hepler hopes it can still achieve several firsts.

"We are trying to be the first in the state to finish and the first library in the world to finish," she said.

Hepler and several other Troy residents started piecing the puzzle together Dec. 17 in the Community Room of the Troy Library with hopes of having the puzzle completed by the end of 2008. There has been a constant flow of people coming in and helping, but progress has been slow even though the puzzle was shipped preseparated into four boxes with a quarter of the puzzle in each box. About half of the first quarter of the puzzle has been completed.

"I wouldn't have considered doing this unless it had come in four bags," Hepler said. "I thought it would be a lot easier, but it's not."

Sandy Taylor, who has been helping since day one, said the slow progress has led to some unforeseen side effects.

"I'm already talking to myself," Taylor said. "I think there are more pieces sitting around than we have put together."

The slow progress also has led to a whole new set of vocabulary.

"You can learn new bad words - it's like learning to play golf," Hepler said.

Children seem to have an easier go with the puzzle than adults.

"We found the children are really good at finding pieces and putting them on the puzzle," Hepler said. "We sit here very methodically, whereas the kids come in and start slapping pieces down. The kids make things go really fast because they have the ability to just slap the pieces in and we don't."

Daniel Steadman, 8, has been the youngest person to help out and has been assigned the task of finding all the puzzle pieces with "fish lips."

"Dan is a big help," Hepler said. "He'll find it in five minutes while three of us have obsessed over it for days."

Leanne Brocke uses her lunch breaks at Sterling Savings Bank to stop by and slap a few pieces together.

"This is more fun than working," she said.

Despite the fun, Brocke said the puzzle should probably come with a warning.

"There could be a warning that you will go crazy after three months of working on it," she said.

Brocke figures the project might take a little longer than originally anticipated.

"Daniel will probably be graduating from high school," she said.

Hepler has recommended sending sections of the puzzle home with people to speed up the process.

"Leanne thinks I am kidding about sending it home with her," Hepler said. "I'm not."

 

Anyone 12 and older or families that want to work the puzzle with their younger children are welcome to visit the Troy Library. Library hours are 1-7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays. Hepler said she hopes to update the puzzle's progress on the library's Web site, latahlibrary.org.

Devin Rokyta can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 237, or by e-mail at drokyta@dnews.com.