BY TRONE DOWD
A retired home care assistant in Rosedale has made quite a stir at the Snap Rosedale Senior Center due to her sharp, puzzle solving mind.
In her free time, 78-year-old Flora Wayne, has spent the past four years knocking down the most challenging of jigsaw puzzles handed her way in a matter of days. While to some, her skills solving these age-old conundrums might not seem significant. But when one sees the complexities of the puzzles she’s completed, it’s understandable as to why she’s made waves she has in the Southeast Queens community.
In an interview with the Press of Southeast Queens, Wayne said that her love for puzzles goes back to childhood.
“When I was a little girl, I would work on puzzles all the time,” Wayne said. “It has always been so relaxing to sit down and figure out how to best solve these.”
As she grew into an adult, Wayne said that the time she spent working on puzzles diminished. Doing no more than two to three a year, it wouldn’t be until her retirement that she would rediscover her old childhood hobby.
Wayne said that she likes to challenge herself as much as she can. She wasn’t ashamed to brag about her impressive skills either, touting her average turnaround time, despite fairly leisurely efforts.
“I like 1,000 [piece puzzles],” she said. “It takes me maybe a week. And that’s not me working on them all the time. I don’t do them once I go home for the day, only here at the center. I get up and do my exercises and stuff like that. I go about my regular day. And when I am here at the center and do sit down to solve my puzzles, I take my time.”
In recent years, Wayne has started selling her works at local flea markets around Southeast Queens and donating the proceeds to the Snap Rosedale Senior Center. Some of the more complex pieces have found their way into offices and recreation rooms as framed pieces of art. Some of the works feature the recently-opened National Museum of African American Culture in Washington D.C., abstract paintings of wildlife, famous works of art, cityscapes and much more. Many of her friends at the center told the PRESS of Southeast Queens how much they appreciate Wayne’s selflessness.
“She really beautifies our center,” SNAP Senior Center case worker Cathy Cahn said. “For anybody who comes in for a tour of the center, she has become a central piece of what we do. She brings beauty, peacefulness, not to mention she’s warm and welcoming. She makes the center the exact same way with her work.”
Maria Belmar, a friend of Wayne at the senior center, also commended Wayne on her work and has taken up puzzles herself.
“She’s amazing!” Belmar said. “To me, she has a vision. She has to. I admire her. I have patience, but not like her.”
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) has also taken notice of the sharp-minded senior, telling the Press of Southeast Queens that she has become good friends with Wayne through her frequent visits to the center.
“It amazes me the attention to detail she seems to have,” Hyndman said. “When you look at some of her work, it is so intricate. Every time I come here, she’s always hard at work and always able to show of new puzzles that she’s done.”
When pressed for any tips on how the beginner puzzle enthusiasts would go about solving some of the more complex challengers, Wayne simply referred to an old, tried and true strategy.
“You have to start with the outside,” she said pointing to her most recently solved puzzle in the kitchen of the senior home. “And pay attention to color. Simple things like that will have you solving 700-piece puzzles like this one in two days flat.”