SPRING VALLEY HIGH RISE RESIDENTS Mary Lemus, left, and Betty Swallers work on a jigsaw puzzle featuring U.S. presidents.

SPRING VALLEY HIGH RISE RESIDENTS Mary Lemus, left, and Betty Swallers work on a jigsaw puzzle featuring U.S. presidents.

SPRING VALLEY, Ill.

There is a stack of framed portraits leaning up against the base of the wall. A pile of boxes sits in the corner with the sides labeled 500, 1,000 and 2,500.

Framed pictures line every wall of the Spring Valley High Rise, displaying anything from landscapes to ballparks to the inside of a tavern. They’re all made out of cardboard, and they were all meticulously put together by a group of avid puzzle enthusiasts.

“We started out in the one room and then it just snowballed,” said puzzle maker Chet Rusk.

Rusk and a few other high rise residents started making the puzzles on Jan. 1. They also started framing them and hanging them on the walls. Now, 54 are hanging and there are still more to put up.

“At one point they were making them faster than I was gluing them,” Rusk said. “It’s just something for us to do here. We might be old but we’re not over the hill.”

The group has gone through four bottles of Mod Podge, a glue that binds together the puzzle pieces before the picture goes in a frame to be hung on the wall.

“Before, we’d do a puzzle and look it at and then put it back in the box,” Rusk said. “But when I do a puzzle, I want to keep it.”

They have been keeping them and they plan on keeping all of the puzzles they make. The stack of unfinished puzzles lying in wait is about three feet high. When they finish one, they move on to the next box.

“Most of the puzzles are donated,” Rusk said. “If we get one with a piece missing we have to dub it in there, but you can’t tell.”

The picture frames are salvaged from local secondhand stores.

“We’ll go to Upscale Resale or to the Salvation Army and get more,” Rusk said. “I don’t really even look at the pictures.”

But he does admire the puzzles that replace them.

One puzzle, which hangs in the high rise’s entryway, is of a local scene. It depicts the Route 89 bridge in Spring Valley just as the sun is peeking over the horizon. It was a special-made puzzle that Rusk’s daughter gave to him.

“My daughter had it sent off and made in Germany,” Rusk said. “I told them when we were working on it that if they cuss they have to cuss in German.”

And the work is almost continuous in the room. There might be five people working at a time or there might be one, but it’s almost a 24/7 job.

“It’s every day. There is somebody in there all the time,” Rusk said.

And if the pace continues, the walls will keep filling up, but right now that’s not a big concern.

“I don’t think we’ll ever run out of space,” Rusk said.


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