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Bruce Breth’s therapy isn’t puzzling at all

March 3, 2011

Every day at Wellington Heights is a puzzle day for (front) Bruce Breth and his caretakers (back, from left) Barbara Black, Bernadette Westover and Garry Hallman. (Photo by Jennifer Barr/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — For Bruce Breth, life was always on the move while he was employed at Harvey Company in Punxsutawney, as a nitrogen truck driver during his younger years.

Today, however, life has slowed down a bit for Breth, 88, and the walls of his room at Wellington Heights are adorned with 70 finished puzzles. His current work in progress is uncompleted on his table.

After suffering a stroke in May 1993 that paralyzed his right side, Breth required continuing therapy. However, it was not mundane, as his family and health care providers supplied him with many puzzles that have served as his own therapy.

When he began working on puzzles 18 years ago, Breth was completing numerous 750-piece puzzles with help from those who visited with him. These days, he’s working on 500-piece puzzles since his eyesight has deteriorated.

The first puzzle Breth and his team of puzzlers completed was a 750-piece picture of a train, which took only three to four days to complete. Today, however, a common puzzle for the group takes about a month or two. Also, for the last few weeks, he has been on bed rest, so he works on his puzzles about twice a day, usually for a half-hour each time.

While the stroke took most of Breth’s ability to speak, he continues to communicate with the help of his puzzles, which he enjoys sharing with everyone.

“He loves when others help him,” his son-in-law, Jesse Miller, said. “When they even can get one piece in place, it puts a big smile on his face.”

Breth has a place in his heart for all the puzzles he has completed, although one that stands out above the others is a puzzle picturing his great-grandson, Hudson Jesse Miller.

His current task, a 500-piece puzzle, depicts a cabin in a wooded area surrounded by a stream and a few deer. For many of the completed outdoor puzzles, Miller teases Breth that they would look great in his camp, but Breth won’t part with them.

After the puzzles are completed, they are glued on the front and back and hung on Breth’s walls for all to see.

While his walls are quickly filling with the beautiful puzzles, Breth continues to receive more puzzles from friends, family and caretakers at Wellington Heights for Christmas, his birthday and throughout the year.

During the 18 years that Breth has resided in Wellington Heights, he has been moved to three different rooms. His current room has proven to be the most popular, as multiple people stop by to help work on a puzzle with him, or stop to take pictures of the many puzzles on his walls.

As Miller and Breth’s caretakers added, among his love for mints and milkshakes, Breth will forever be a fan of puzzles.

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