by J.O. Parker
Life might be a puzzle to some, but for Grinnell’s John Noer, 85, solving them has been a lifelong passion.
Noer, who resides with his wife, Dorothy, at the Mayflower Community, has being putting puzzles together since he was a kid.
A few years ago, Noer stepped up his game and put together a 3,000 piece puzzle of an African jungle scene. The framed puzzle hangs on his kitchen wall.
That led him to tackle a 9,000 piece puzzle. He saw the puzzle of a colorful underwater scene at a game store in Macomb, Ill., while visiting family.
“I didn’t buy it that day, but later called and asked my granddaughter to find out what it cost,” Noer said. “I told her not to buy it. She did.”
The finished puzzle is framed and hangs in the Mayflower Health Center – Carman Center.
Noer’s latest challenge is a 40,320-piece puzzle comprised of 10 Disney movie scenes.
The puzzle was created by Ravensburger, a German puzzle and game company, and Noer has been working on the masterpiece since Feb. 1, 2019 in the Mayflower Community Craft Room.
His work space consists of two 6-foot tables taped together and covered with butcher paper.
Each puzzle section has 4,320 pieces and Noer is putting the puzzle together one section at a time. He is currently working on the tenth and final section of the puzzle and expects to be done sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Once finished, the mammoth puzzle will depict 10 Disney movie scenes and will measure 23-feet by 6.5-feet. Jim Beckman with Beckman Gallery in Grinnell will frame the puzzle for display.
Where the puzzle will hang has yet to be determined.
The Disney movies in the puzzle include: Cinderella, Snow White, Lion King, Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast, Bambi, Jungle Book, Fantasia, Ariel – The Little Mermaid and the final section is Peter Pan.
When finished with a puzzle section, Noer splits the section into two pieces and stores them on foam core board in the craft room.
Steve Langerud, Chief Executive Officer of Mayflower Homes, encouraged Noer to tackle the puzzle. In fact, Mayflower Homes is covering the cost of having the puzzle framed.
When asked what he enjoys the most about working on the puzzle, Noer said with a chuckle, “It keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.”
Noer explained that when he opens a bag of puzzle pieces, he divides them into 10 – 12 piles. One pile is for the edge pieces and another for the film strip. The film strip wraps around the edge of the entire puzzle and features scenes from the 10 different Disney movies.
He then branches out to the inside of the film strip. Another pile includes all the non-straight edge pieces. This is followed by various colors such as green, light blue, purple and facial and skin colors.
“I handled all 4,320 pieces on the first day,” Noer said of the puzzle.
Each section of the puzzle comes with a color picture showing the finished product. He uses a kitchen spatula to move small sections of the puzzle around.
When putting the Beauty and the Beast section together, Noer said he discovered a missing puzzle piece in the Beast’s face.
“I called the company and told them about the missing piece,” Noer said. “They told me that they could send out the entire section.”
Not wanting to do that, Noer said he counted the puzzle pieces from the top and side to find where the missing piece was and told the company.
“They sent me the missing piece,” he said.
About that time, Dorothy was vacuuming the carpet and moved a chair and the missing puzzle piece fell to the floor.
“I had taken a tray of puzzle pieces upstairs to sort them and I dropped a piece,” recalled Noer.
He now carries the extra missing piece in his billfold.
Noer has spent a total of 627 days and countless hours working on the puzzle. Fantasia, the eighth section, took Noer the most days with 143. He finished Beauty and the Beast section the fastest in 32 days.
“Some days I get three pieces in one-half an hour and other days I get 20 pieces in five minutes,” Noer said of completing the puzzle.
Noer grew up on the south side of Chicago. He spent more than 20 years in the grocery store business, including time while in school. He then switched career paths and became a minister with the Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) and moved to Iowa. He ministered at churches in Pomeroy, Marengo and Onawa during a 20-plus year span before retiring. He learned about the Mayflower Community while attending the United Church of Christ annual meeting at Grinnell College.
He and Dorothy have been married for 56 years. The couple has three children, one of which is adopted, and four grandchildren. The couple also took in an Ethiopian refugee who was supposed to stay three months and ended up staying three years. He became part of the Noer family.
“He has given us three (more) grandchildren,” said Noer.
The couple has lived at the Mayflower for eight years.
In his spare time, Noer enjoys reading and watching Jeopardy.
“I read two to three books a week,” he said.
Once he is done with the Disney puzzle, Noer plans to downsize a bit.
“I have a number of 1,500 piece puzzles in my closet waiting to be put together,” he said.
The Brooklyn Public Library is hosting two different Halloween-themed events, both made possible by Friends of the Library. These events, which get underway on Oct. 5, will be ongoing for the entire month of October, are free, and are available by registering for a time you can come with family and friends. This will also allow the library staff to maintain proper social distancing guidelines by limiting those involved for each session.
The first event is an escape room where your group has to solve clues in order to escape a mad scientist's clutches! Entire time involved is 75 minutes.
The second is a murder mystery, where you and your party must discover the murderer that walks among you. Costumes are encouraged! The entire time involved is 60-120 minutes.
Both events are for ages 13 and up. Don't worry, library staff is planning stuff for younger visitors.
We hope these events will be a fun way to engage our community and celebrate the fall season.
For more information or to register for one of the family-fun events, please call the library at 641-522-9272 or email email@example.com.
The public capital campaign to revitalize the building is now underway
by J.O. Parker
The revitalization of the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building is moving forward, and organizers have announced a public capital campaign to raise the $1.9 million needed to complete the project.
The announcement came during a virtual event on Thursday, Sept. 10. The goal is to transform the building into a place of honor for those who have served, as well as a home for an artists’ residency and a space for community gatherings.
The Prairie Star Residency, as it is being called, is the only artists’ residency in the nation with a focus on veterans. Four to eight artist residents at a time will live in the building for up to six weeks.
“An artist residency is a safe and comfortable environment to share art and life experiences and develop connections with other artists and the surrounding community,” said Tom Lacina, campaign co-chair. “Prairie Star Residency’s unique focus on veterans will not only serve those veterans who attend, but will also enrich and educate the community of Grinnell about the arts generally and the breadth and variety of veteran experiences in particular.”
The Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building, which is located on the southeast corner of Broad Street and Fourth Avenue next to Central Park, first opened in 1959. It served as a community center, dance hall and gathering place for veterans and community members for many years. The building was closed in 2010 when asbestos was discovered and later removed. Since that time, the building has fallen in disarray.
This new concept of utilizing the building as a veterans artist residency was the idea of Lacina, a Grinnell lawyer and long-time promoter and supporter of arts in the Grinnell community. He presented the idea to the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Commission in January 2017. The veterans commission, which is appointed by the mayor, is charged with overseeing the building. The commission consists of Dr. Teresa Coon, chair; Randall Hotchkin, vice-chair; Gwen Rieck, secretary; Leo Lease and Terry Stringfellow.
“By March, the veterans commission was on board with the idea,” noted Lacina.
In November 2017, a levy was voted on by Grinnell residents and passed. Lacina said the levy provides about $110,000 yearly for the project over a 20-year time frame.
In the following months, Lacina worked as a liaison with the Grinnell City Council and Mayor Dan Agnew worked as a liaison with the veterans commission to develop a relationship between the council and commission.
“We all have to work together on this project,” said Lacina.
In February 2018, the City of Grinnell passed a resolution of support for the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building rehabilitation and private fundraising campaign.
In mid 2018, RDG Planning and Design was hired to develop plans for the revitalization of the building.
In late 2018, Amperage Marketing & Fundraising was hired to do a study on the project and its needs in the community.
In 2019, the veterans commission contracted with Amperage on the project.
Original plans were to launch the capital campaign in April, but due to COVID-19, the date was moved to September.
Lacina said the goal is to finalize the drawings so that the commission can seek bids on the project in early 2021.
The upper level of the building will feature an expanded glass entry and veterans display area.
“It (the entry) actually raises the profile of the building,” said Lacina.
The elevation of the front will extend through to the building’s southeast corner where a public terrace and deck overlooking Central Park will be located.
“The building will have two entries, one from the front and one from the park,” said Lacina.
Other first floor features will include a veteran meeting room, event and meeting space and artist studios and multipurpose space.
The lower level will hold most of the day-to-day operations of the Prairie Star residency. This includes five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen and creative space for the veterans in the program.
“Depending on the artist, they may never come upstairs,” noted Lacina.
Other features of the building include glass at the south end of the building. The west side of the building will feature large window shade, which will have each branch of the service listed on them.
Lacina said plans are for construction on the project to take place in 2022 or 2023. A timeline on when the building will be completed is not known at this time.
The project has received support from the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Commission, the Grinnell Historical Museum, National Veterans Art Museum, Grinnell Area Arts Council, Poweshiek County Veterans Affairs Commission, Iowa Gold Star Military Museum and the City of Grinnell.
It will be a living, working memorial to honor our veterans through art with a focus on veterans from Iowa and beyond, noted a press release.
“It is a way to bring people together, tear down walls and open minds,” noted Randall Hotchkin, vice-chair of the veterans commission, in a press release. “It will provide something to the community that a lot of small towns are lacking – a niche that sets Grinnell apart – a place to be proud of, to visit and to memorialize loved ones in a unique way.”
There are opportunities for naming rights for specific areas of the building, starting with donations of $10,000 or more. Gifts may also be made in cash, grain or securities. Matching gifts are welcome and pledges are encouraged. Gifts may also be made in honor or in memory of someone. All donors will be recognized for their contribution to the project.
Tax-deductible contributions should be made payable to Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 344, Grinnell, Iowa 50112. Please designated on the memo line to the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building. For questions, please call GPCF at 641-236-5518.
For more information or to keep track of the campaign, visit PrairieStar Residency.org or Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building on Facebook.
A Kentucky Derby-style fundraiser netted $300 for the Brooklyn Public Library. The event was held at Center Ground Coffee House in Brooklyn on Saturday, Sept. 4. Guests were served Center Ground Mint Juleps, finger sandwiches, cucumber hor d’oeuvers, spiced pretzels served with mustard dip and Rotel dip with corn chips.
“We dressed in our fancy hats and watched the Kentucky Derby pre-race broadcast,” said Michelle Graham, a member of the Friends of the Library and organizer of the event. “There were trivia questions during the commercial breaks.”
For those who would like give to the Brooklyn Library, checks can be sent paid to the order of Friends of the Library to Michelle Graham, 515 W. Pershing Dr., Brooklyn, IA 52211 or dropped off at the Brooklyn Public Library.
“A special and heartfelt thank you to those who attended,” said Graham.