Albion man, 93, is determined to put together world’s largest puzzle with 40,320 pieces
Garland Miller is making progress with ‘The greatest challenge in the history of puzzles’
ALBION – Garland Miller leans over the table and stretches out his right arm. He has a puzzle piece gripped with tweezers. He thinks he found the spot for the piece, but the shape is just a little bit off.
“It’s one piece at a time,” he said today in the living room at his home on Route 31, just west of Walmart.
Miller, 93, is called a puzzle master by his family. He has done numerous puzzles with 500, 750, 1,000, 2,500 pieces and more.
In 2017, he finished his most ambitious puzzle with 9,000 pieces. That puzzle about astrology was very challenging with a dark sky constellation. It hangs in the stairwell of the Pratt building in downtown Albion. The finished puzzle is covered in a thin translucent coating of glue.
After Miller was done with that puzzle, he worked on some smaller ones and then declared he was ready for a bigger challenge. His family found the world’s largest puzzle, the Guinness World Record for a largest commercially available puzzle in the world.
The 40,320-piece puzzle includes 10 scenes from famous Disney films. The puzzle weighs 43 pounds. When it’s finished, it stretches 22 ½ feet long and 6 ½ feet tall. It is produced by Ravensburger, which calls 40,320-piece, “The greatest challenge in the history of puzzles.”
“Do you have what it takes to assemble one of the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle?” the company states in advertising the puzzle. “Take the Ravensburger challenge and find out! You’ll be committing roughly 600 hours of puzzle fun to this masterpiece. Imagine the pride you’ll feel when it’s finished.”
The puzzle has 10 bags with about 4,000 pieces for each of the 10 Disney scenes. Miller first went to work on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He started in September and was done before Christmas. It was about a 10-week effort.
Miller remembers watching the Snow White movie in 1937 at the former Rialto Theatre on Main Street in Albion. That building, next to the former Swan Library, is now a gym and liquor store owned by Vinny Navarra.
“I still think it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen,” Miller said. “It was all hand-drawn, not like they do it today.”
His daughter-in-law Gina Miller often joins him on the puzzle projects. She said it can be mind-numbing and frustrating to get the pieces it the right spots. So many have the same shape and color. But her father-in-law notices the subtleties.
He has a dozen trays with groupings of pieces by color. He then will sort those into smaller groups based on shapes.
“It’s a continual sort, starting with the color families,” Gina Miller said.
Garland has developed his own system for the big puzzles. He hasn’t watched a YouTube video or read books with tips.
Garland said you need a system, and lots of time.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “It keeps me out of mischief. I’m not hanging out at any bars.”
Miller is a World War II veteran. He was an ambulance driver in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he worked 21 years as a heavy equipment mechanic for the state Department of Transportation in Pittsford and then close to home in Albion. He also drove a tractor-trailer for 28 years and worked part-time for an auctioneer in Middleport.
He has been busy in his retirement, visiting all 50 states. He stays active, and doesn’t take any medication.
He has done puzzles since he was a kid, finding them to be relaxing. He did many with his grandchildren, and other family and friends. He and his late companion Mary Roth also conquered many puzzles together.
After Miller completed the Snow White scene last month, he went to work the next day on a scene from Fantasia with Mickey Mouse. That one has been difficult with so many similar-looking pieces. Miller has Mickey Mouse in that puzzle nearly done – only a few missing pieces. The top is also finished.
If each of the 10 scenes in the giant puzzle takes about 2 1/2 months, the entire puzzle will take just over two years.
It will be so big, Miller won’t have room to display it in his house. He and his family would like to see it up in the community when it’s all together.
But he still needs to complete Fantasia, and then there’s 4,000-piece puzzles of Peter Pan, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Lion King.