WATERVILLE — Lakewood staff and residents gathered June 8 in the Memory Lane dining room to meet and present cards and flowers to the family who donated “The World’s Largest Puzzle: Life — The Great Challenge” to the facility, according to a news release from Michelle Rossignol, director of Life Enrichment at Lakewood.

The 24,000-piece puzzle measures 5-by-14 feet and was transported to Lakewood Continuing Care Center by U-Haul, when it made the trip from Bingham.

Rossignol escorted Janine Stewart and her family down a hallway, and as they rounded the corner and saw the piece of art professionally mounted on the wall, tears filled their eyes. It was an especially emotional moment for Janine Stewart and her brother-in-law, Rick Stewart, as memories flooded back while they recalled to those in attendance the story of how this puzzle came to life.

The man who was responsible for this special moment was Janine’s husband, Darryl, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2009 and found peace and contentment during his chemo treatment by working on the puzzle.

“He was one that just looked at things and when he found what he was looking for, he just picked up the piece and placed it right where it belonged,” said Janine Stewart of Darryl’s patience and ability, according to the release.

The puzzle is appropriately titled “Life” as it contains several scenes, including the solar system, hot air balloons, sailboats, a Noah’s Ark scene with animals, and a large portion of ocean life.

This creation, with artwork by Royce B. McClure, came to life in the basement of the Stewart’s home. They put a 4-by-8-foot piece of plywood out and Darryl Stewart went to work. The puzzle came in four bags of 6,000 pieces, and after completing a bag, Darryl Stewart would take it apart in large sections, pile them up, and eventually put them all together creating a true, one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Family and friends were able to help by placing a few pieces of the puzzle during visits with Darryl Stewart, and even shared a memory of one of the sections collapsing while attempting to move it, which made them laugh. After a lot of hard work, and a little over a year’s time, the puzzle was finally completed. Darryl Stewart was able to admire his handiwork for a short time, because he died at home on Nov. 30, 2010, at the age of 55. After he died, his brother, Rick Stewart, and family put the final touches on the puzzle by custom framing and sealing it. A plaque was made in Darryl Stewart’s honor to be placed next to this puzzle when Janine Stewart could find a proper home for it.

This plaque and a photo of Darryl Stewart came be seen on the wall next to the puzzle in the Memory Lane dining room at Lakewood.

The staff and residents at Lakewood wish to extend many thanks to Janine Stewart and her family for thinking of them and allowing this precious memory of Darryl Stewart’s to remain alive in a home full of loving people who will see his handiwork every day and remain in awe of the great challenge called “Life.”

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