World’s Largest Puzzle Showcased at the Norfolk Arts Center
51,300 – piece puzzle project by Gerald “Jerry” and Linda Dahlkoetter
Jerry, who is a resident of the Norfolk Veterans Home, embarked on a challenge in late April 2021 to assemble the project produced by Kodak and Cra-Z-Art. The puzzle consists of 27 separate segments that, when assembled, create a giant puzzle measuring 6 feet tall and 28 feet long.
A longtime puzzle enthusiast, Jerry said he had set his focus on assembling a giant puzzle after his grandson mentioned finding one made by Disney several years ago. By the time they had raised the $600 to purchase it, a puzzle nearly 10,000 pieces larger was available. They opted to get the larger one.
When he got the puzzle last year, Jerry put out word to see if any volunteers in the community would like to help be part of the project. The response was immediate.
“There were a lot of people that volunteered to help me,” Jerry said.
The volunteers were given large boards on which to assemble the segments. One volunteer assembled six. Most others did one. Some, for personal reasons, were unable to finish the segments they began, but the Dahlkoetters said they were grateful for their willingness to help with the project.
“I could do one in maybe a week and a few days,” Dahlkoetter said. “There’s one lady that did hers in less than a week.”
Jerry assembled seven segments, a feat made more challenging at the veterans home by the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
COVID complicated Linda’s role in collecting the segments when they were completed, as well, but she mitigated the risk of exposure to the virus by wearing a mask and insisting visitors wear a mask when they came to the house to drop the finished puzzles off, she said,
“If they didn’t bring (the segment) back to me, I had to load it in the car and surround it with blankets and drive about 10 miles an hour home, hoping nobody would rear end me,” she said with a laugh.
Another challenge arose when certain pieces of the puzzle came up missing. The puzzle maker’s instructions were to wait until all of the segments were assembled and then, if there were any missing pieces, to contact the company with the description of which pieces were needed, and the company would send replacements, the Dahlkoetters said,
But they wouldn’t answer the calls,” Linda said,
Linda said she tried multiple times to contact the company and even reached out to the chamber of commerce in the New Jersey town where the company is based, but it was unable to offer additional help.
“I called Kodak, and they said their hands were tied. This company-Cra-Z-Art – they were the ones that had the say in soul,” she said.
Jerry took matters into his own hands by making his own replacement pieces using clay, glue and a blown-up picture of the puzzle. It’s a trick he’s used on other puzzles in the past
“There’s always a piece missing, it seems” Linda said,
The assembled puzzle is on display from
March 10 – April 7