Melrose–Betty Dickhaus and Gail McCullough love putting puzzles together. A recent puzzle was perplexing—but fun!

On a long table upstairs at Rose View Manor in Melrose, where the two have lived for years, sits their completed black and white puzzle with inspirational words on it. The two sit around it on July 15, smiling as they look at the sayings on the puzzle. 

“I put the last piece in,” Gail said of a major task she completed on July 10. 

“Whoopee,” said Betty, raising her arms up in the air. 

They received the 1,000-piece puzzle from daycare provide Carla Bodeker, and put it up after Easter. During an Easter Project-Give-A-Gift trip to the manor, “She (Carla) asked us if we would like to do it,” Gail explains. 

Since there usually is a puzzle up for tenants to work on, they said yes. 

The plan was to complete the word puzzle and return it to Carla so she could put it up on a wall in her daycare home. 

Betty and Gail just didn’t realize it would take three months, and oodles of hours, to complete.  

So what was the hardest part?

“Everything,” Betty said laughing.

“We worked almost two weeks on the border (which measures 39 ½ inches),” adds Gail, holding a puzzle piece that looks worn. 

“We put that piece in and out so many times,” she said. 

To lend some sense, early on, to the project, puzzle pieces of similar colors were sorted out and placed on smaller cardboard pieces.

They’d get a few pieces in and “then it was all down hill,” said Gail. But thanks to their determination these sometimes puzzled puzzle people kept going.  

Fellow tenants and staff would stop and visit, while they worked on it, even putting in a piece or two. 

“There was never a day when they didn’t work on it,” said Jean Hellermann, staff member, adding, “They never gave up.” 

Sometimes they’d work on it together; other times they worked alone. 

“You have to concentrate when you do this,” said Gail. 

“It’s fun,” said Betty, with Gail adding, “At times it’s exasperating.”  

Sundays were off limits for Betty because she reserved that day for dancing at the Horseshoe Ballroom in Spring Hill. 

“I’d come home from church and sit down and think maybe I’d find a few pieces,” said Gail. 

Both admit there were times they wanted to quit, but knowing it was going to a good cause—children—inspired them to continue on. 

“We should have had a bottle (of liquor) on the corner (of the puzzle table) and after we’d get a piece to fit take a swig,” said Betty, her infectious laughter filling the room. 

Once it was completed the plan was for Carla to pick it up and place a backing on it for transport and hanging on her daycare wall.

“If one piece goes, the whole thing will go and I’m not going to put it back together,” Gail said laughing.

Usually when they are done with a puzzle they will take it apart, box it up and donate it to The Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre.  

They worked on this word puzzle so long they have some of the sayings memorized. 

“Love each other,” is Gail’s answer when asked their individual favorite.  

“I like all the sayings,” said Betty.

After finally finishing the puzzle, Betty and Gail are taking two of the saying to heart--“Be Happy” and “Be Grateful.” 

Both agree it’s been a joy watching the words on this puzzle come together. 

“The kids will get to see it and hopefully take it to heart,” said Betty. “And we had a hand in it.”