EDWARDSVILLE — Walter DeBaecke studied the many possibilities, then carefully picked up a single, sky-blue puzzle piece and moved it into position.
Snap! It was a perfect fit.
“Good job,” said his friend Ginny Stivers.
“Way to go, Walter,” added his friend Marion Marosevitch.
OK, that was another one down. Maybe 3,500 to go.
“I’m very determined. I never started anything and didn’t finish,” said DeBaecke, 69, of Kingston, who in early July began working on a 4,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a Loire Valley castle, spreading pieces all over two tables pushed together at the Edwardsville Active Adult Center.
Stivers, 67, of Luzerne, and Marosevitch, 63, of Edwardsville, pitch in just about every day the center is open — and any other interested person is welcome to stop by and assemble some pieces — but they agree DeBaecke is the puzzle master.
“He’s the driving force,” said center director Mary Lou Kocher, pointing to some smaller puzzles that DeBaecke completed and donated to the center. One shows deer drinking at a stream, another shows a campsite under a full moon. Both are displayed on a wall.
Stivers also contributed puzzles she assembled, including an image of snow-capped evergreens and another that depicts a cabin next to a bridge.
Not everyone enjoys fitting tiny interlocking pieces together, the jigsaw builders concede, but they’ll gladly work on a puzzle for hours.
“It’s very relaxing,” DeBaecke said. “Very soothing.”
“Sometimes you’ll get into a puzzle,” Stivers said, “and you’ll be up all night.”
Well, maybe that happens at home. The Edwardsville Active Adult Center is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, so that’s the only time the puzzle team gets to work on the large puzzle, which DeBaecke purchased at a yard sale.
“Oh, it was sealed,” he said, explaining he’s confident the previous owner didn’t lose any part of the eye-catching French chateau.
If he should discover a piece is missing?
“I would cry,” he said.
DeBaecke and his fellow puzzlers estimate it will take weeks, if not months, to assemble all 4,000 pieces. After it’s completed, they intend to apply a layer of glue and display the puzzle on a wall at the center.
“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Stivers said of DeBaecke, who admits he has a system for working on a jigsaw puzzle, starting with the sorting of the pieces.
The 50 by 38-inch border of the Loire Valley castle puzzle is already completed, and all the other pieces are sorted by color and shape.
“I call this a crooked back,” DeBaecke said, running his finger along a smooth but slightly concave piece.
“This is a belly,” he said, showing a convex piece. “When you see one of these, you know they go together. Bellies and backs.”
Pointing to a fancier piece that sported various protrusions, he said, “This is a double nipple with four wings.”
“When I first heard them talking this way, I wondered WHAT are they talking about,” said Kocher, the center director.
“She thought we were talking dirty,” Stivers said.
Kocher has another name for what DeBaecke calls “nipples.”
“I say ‘two knobbies,’ ” she explained.
However they describe the jigsaw shapes, folks at the Edwardsville Active Adults Center believe working on jigsaw puzzles is good for their health.
“They tell the elderly to do crosswords and word games,” Stivers said. “This is very good mental stimulation, too.”
“It’s great for the mind, great for the emotions,” Kocher said. “It’s great for everything.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT