Thelma Chapman has done puzzles all her life, but a 6,000-piece puzzle of a mountain scenery from Italy literally took a mountain of an effort to finish.
After working on it on and off for almost three years, the 82-year-old proudly showed off the completed piece, now glued together and draped on her dining table.
In fact, it’s been sitting on that table, in various stages of completion, since that one day when Chapman’s daughter goaded her mother to get the puzzle box out of the closet.
The Sebring resident had acquired the puzzle from a garage sale at the Palms of Sebring.
She had passed it up a couple of times but bought it because she liked the scene.
The box, which had never been opened, went in her closet and stayed there for a few years.
Then Patricia Isaacson, who lives in North Dakota and also likes doing puzzles, visited her mother and remembered the unopened box.
“Come on, Mom, we are going to do this,” Isaacson told Chapman, and has helped her each time she has visited.
Mountains, in various shades of gray, stand against a backdrop of blue skies, peppered with white clouds. Tiny cottages peep out from a wooden area, fringed by stacks of lumber.
It all looks very picturesque until you peer at it and notice the tiny, interlocking pieces that look almost identical and the various shades – dark and light – that can throw off even a puzzle afficiando like Chapman.
“It became a challenge,” she said. “I couldn’t resist it.”
For starters, mother and daughter first separated the pieces by color and put them in different boxes.
Then they’d tackle small parts of the puzzle at a time.
Sometimes, Chapman would be left with one odd piece that looked out of place.
She’d have to move it around until it fit, and all she had for reference was a picture of the puzzle on the box.
Her husband, Andrew, remembers how she would work on it until late at night, but helping his wife was out of question.
“To me it’s all a waste of time,” he grinned, but is proud she got it done.
The puzzle, which measures 61 1/2 inches by 42 1/4 inches, will go on a wall once it’s framed.
For now, Thelma Chapman is done with knotty, mega puzzles and may tackle a small one if she feels like it.
But doing puzzles is more than just a hobby.
She uses it to keep her brain sharp and also advises other people to do the same – be it a crossword puzzle or like the ones she does.
“It helps the brain,” she said.