Beulah Fason of Rose Bud has put together thousands of puzzles in her 86 years, but she just started keeping track of her hobby this year. A couple of weeks ago, Fason placed her 120,000th puzzle piece for the year.
“I write them down on a little tablet and the name of the puzzle,” Fason said.
Fason’s daughter, Rita Starkey, said she remembers her mom and dad doing puzzles together when she was growing up.
“I don’t remember when we started, but my husband and I had a dairy barn,” Fason said. “We’d work puzzles until it was time to go milk cows.”
What was once a way to pass time before work has turned into something for Fason to do in her retirement.
After her husband died, Fason said, she started working more and more puzzles.
“I was collecting plates at the time,” she said. “I decided there was something better to do than collect plates, so I started doing puzzles, and I haven’t gotten away from it.”
If she can’t sleep, she’ll get up and put together a puzzle in the room in her house devoted to her hobby.
“It kind of keeps you from going insane,” Fason said.
Starkey said knowing her mother is busy with her hobby helps Starkey rest easy.
“[My siblings and I] have a running joke. If Mother is out of puzzles, she’s going to be up on a stool, or she’s going to be doing something she shouldn’t be doing,” Starkey said. “We make sure she’s got something to do.”
Fason is no stranger to being active.
“I was raised on a farm, and we raised cotton,” she said. “I’ve just always been active. I haven’t ever just sat down and let somebody wait on me.”
Fason had two strokes in 2007 and 2011 that gave her and her children a scare because they didn’t know if she’d be able to do puzzles again.
“I had gotten to where I couldn’t see out of one eye,” Fason said.
She recovered from the strokes, however, and kept working puzzles.
Starkey lives next door to her mother and checks on her almost every day.
“I always finish [a puzzle],” Fason said. “I leave them together for Rita to see; then we’ll put them back in the box.”
Sometimes Fason likes a puzzle so much that she frames it, and it becomes artwork for her walls.
“Some of them are just too pretty to put back in the box,” Fason said.
Starkey said her mother’s framed puzzles will serve as a way to remember her when she is gone.
“I plan on her living forever, but when she’s not here anymore, we’ve got these memories that she did these puzzles,” Starkey said.
Fason tries to put at least one puzzle together each day.
“I usually do one a day if they’re 500 [pieces],” she said. “If they’re 1,000, it takes me two days. Sometimes Rita helps me a little bit, but whoever comes by and wants to help me with a puzzle, I’ll let them.”
Fason prefers the 500- and 1,000-piece puzzles over ones with 300 pieces.
“I don’t care much for the 300 pieces — they’re too easy. I finish them too quick,” she said.
Though puzzle construction is something Fason has become an expert at, she still never knows how long it will take her to piece a puzzle together.
“The one I’m working on now has 10 dogs on it,” she said. “Each one’s got a nose and face to go with it.”
Fason said she plans on working puzzles for a long time.
“They’re interesting, and they keep me out of trouble,” she said.
She didn’t plan on putting more than 100,000 pieces of puzzles together this year, but that’s just the way it worked out, she said.
The busyness of the holidays has not given Fason a reason to slow down on her hobby, but she does plan on taking one day off.
“I might take a break and celebrate Christmas,” she said.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.