Midlothian’s 'Prince of Puzzles': Lifelong electrician picks up hobby to keep his hands busy

92-year-old picks up hobby after wife's health decline

By Patty Hullett
For the Mirror

Eddie Reitz, a 92-year-old resident of Legend Oaks of Midlothian, is loving being called “The Puzzle Prince” by some of his fellow boarders at the city’s newest premier senior living community.

This facility is located at the corner of 14th Street and George Hopper Road, and these caregivers specialize in offering Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care for seniors.

Eddie Reitz, 92, shows off one of his hardest puzzle masterpieces, "Bacon." Almost all the pieces are the same shape and color, he said.

Eddie was born, raised, and lived for 90 years in Oak Cliff. 

How did he start his hobby of puzzling?

Puzzling is defined as something, such as a game, toy, or problem, that requires ingenuity and often persistence in solving or assembling.

Some eight years ago, Eddie was at odds at how to best care for his wife, whose health was declining because of her increasing memory loss. After much heartache and contemplation, it was decided to move her into a specialized health care place that focused on her special needs. Eddie seemed to have more time on his hands during this transition than he knew what to do with, so he started putting together jigsaw puzzles in his spare time, and he seemed to be quite good at his new hobby.

By trade, Eddie had been a lifelong electrician and was very used to working with his hands. He has always enjoyed construction work, and he jokingly says, “At a young age, I cut my teeth on a pair of pliers!”

When asked if working with puzzles is therapeutic for him, he quickly answers, “Yes. It keeps my brain sharp and it occupies my mind.”

A special Halloween puzzle assembled by Eddie Reitz.

Eddie confessed that he started off slowly at his time-consuming leisure activity, but over the past eight years he said he has probably completed more than 500 different puzzles.

He comments, “Some of my friends here at Legend Oaks bring puzzles for me to put together for them all the time. I have several piles of puzzles stacked around my apartment – just waiting to be put together.”

Legend Oaks resident Bobbye Rigsby proudly displays one of the puzzle prince's works in her apartment.

Quite a few of his fellow residents have his framed artwork hanging in their private apartments.

And he is proud that his friends consider his finished products worthy to become a part of their own personal home decorating.

Eddie Reitz, 92, sorts puzzle pieces by color and shape in his apartment at Legend Oaks.

Some tricks of the trade – according to Eddie:

1. First, the puzzle pieces are sorted generally by shape and colors

2. There are six basic puzzle shapes to contend with: A. 1 point, B. 2 points / angle, C. 2 points / straight, D. 3 points, E. 4 points and F. no points.

3. Find the straight border pieces and fit them together to get your outside square or rectangle-shaped puzzle started.

4. Next, find a main focal part of the puzzle (i.e. a house or other structure, a main animal, person, or thing) to help you begin to complete one section.

5. Leave the more difficult similar-colored things until the very last – like grass, sky, clouds, ground cover, etc.

The finished product to be displayed

Eddie prefers to frame and mat his puzzles after they are completed. He has his own special method that is both fast and cost-effective.

He first puts a sealer on the entire puzzle to hold all the pieces in place and then glues the large puzzle onto a cardboard backing for support. He has already previously measured the size of the cardboard border for the puzzle; usually he uses a 1-inch border.

Birds are shown in front of a welcome sign on the front door of Eddie Reitz, 92.

From there, he chooses a 2-inch coordinating decorative-colored tape to cover over the

cardboard. To finish the framing, he cuts some wire and then tapes and hooks both ends of the wire with two paper clips, and adhesive tape. Then his work is ready for wall-hanging.

His puzzle favorites

Eddie lists his favorite work that he has ever done as a puzzle called “The Last Supper”, depicting Jesus eating with his Disciples before his crucifixion.

His sweet wife was in the memory care hospital for eight total years, and passed away about two years ago. He had completed his detailed puzzle while she was still a resident there, and after her death, the facility left his framed puzzle hanging on a wall in one of the halls at that location. As far as he knows, his puzzle continues to be displayed in her honor.

A colorful floral puzzle assembled by Eddie Reitz.

Another of his all-time favorite pieces is a work called “bacon.” This puzzle features pieces that are the same shape. This one was so complicated that it took him a record of about six long weeks.

Generally, he can complete a regular puzzle in one to three weeks, depending on his schedule and the amount of leisure time he puts into each puzzle.

Legend Oaks resident Bobbye Rigsby said, “Eddie is such a sweet man. He shares his art with everyone. He always leaves his apartment door open during the day, and usually has some light music playing in the background. He is always so welcoming.”

Eddie says, “I do that, because at age 92, my door is open every day so I’m available to listen and/or counsel anyone that wants to just talk and be friends.”

He is the father of five grown children, and grandfather to six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A nostalgic gas station puzzle
A puzzle called "Christmas Is Coming."