LIMA — Norm Monfort, of Lima, turned 90 years old on June 9. He received a unique birthday present from his family, a replica of The New York Times front page from the date he was born, June 9, 1927; only it was in a jigsaw puzzle format.
“Actually my family all agreed on this birthday gift. My granddaughter found it, and my family agreed on it,” Monfort said.
Monfort has five children, 13 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
“When I first got it, I looked at that and, I hadn’t done any jigsaw puzzles for several years, and when I saw this I thought, ‘My word, I’ll never get this done.’ And you know I stayed at it and actually I had this done in three weeks,” Monfort said. “When you stop to think about it, that was quite an achievement for me. I was proud of it and the fact that I had done that.
The family held a birthday celebration for Monfort at a cabin in Coldwater, Michigan.
“My family put together this thing that broke down the number of years, the number of months, the number of days, the number of kids, all of that was put on a big sheet. It’s still up at the lake. That was something else, too. You can’t believe that you’ve been around that long,” he said.
Monfort was very surprised that a gift such as this jigsaw puzzle even existed.
“It kind of blows your mind where she got the idea, but she did, and I’m pretty proud of it,” he said.
The jigsaw puzzle was a bit daunting to Monfort.
“I’m going to say, most of the puzzles this size are at least 500 pieces. I’m not going to say that that’s what it was. It doesn’t say,” he said.
He took to the task of putting the puzzle together.
“If you look, there’s a difference in the size of the type, and that’s what made it a little easier for me. Because when I looked at that I thought, ‘Oh my God, is it all different?’ I figured out what I would do, of course, everybody does the outside first, then I just took a section that had only the one size of type and I would work on that. Actually I thought the last quarter of it was really going to be the toughest, because they were the closest together, but actually it turned out to be the easiest,” Monfort said. “I have to say I amazed myself at that. I was a couple of weeks into it and it was slowing down, and I thought maybe I was going to have to have some help with it, but I just kept working at it and I got it done. I want to try to have it put into a frame.”
A duplicate piece of paper accompanied the jigsaw puzzle so Monfort knew what it was supposed to look like.
“It was a fun thing to do. I’m really pleased with it. It’s kind of addicting. I would certainly suggest it to anyone that wants to improve their mind to keep active,” Monfort said.
Monfort’s wife, Ruth Ann, died of Alzheimer’s. They had been married about 56 years before her death.
Monfort was born in Toledo, lived in Michigan for a while, and moved down to this area when he started seventh grade. He graduated from Central High School, in Lima, in 1945.
He joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1946, after World War II was over, and spent time stateside in Orlando, Florida.
“I worked in the laboratory in a hospital in Orlando, Florida, back when Orlando was nothing but a lot of lakes. All of that has changed since Disney has moved in there. It’s really changed,” Monfort said.
Monfort’s job included laboratory work for airmen who needed bloodwork, etc.
He was in the Army Air Forces and the U.S. Air Force just two years before coming back to Lima.
“My first job was working in a drugstore downtown, the Argonne Drugstore across from the hotel. That was my first paying job and I worked there through high school and after I came home from the service I went back to work for them. Then I got a job with Vistron, or that time Sohio Chemical. I worked in the laboratory there, too, testing chemicals and so forth,” Monfort said. “I retired after working 26 years from Vistron.”
Monfort has longevity on his side, as his mother lived to be 97 and his father was in his 90s before he died.
“Of course when you have grandkids, they keep you young anyway,” he said.
He is a big sports fan and traveled to Columbus every Friday night to watch his youngest grandson play high school football.
“When he graduated I almost didn’t know what to do with myself on Friday. Of course the great-grandkids are all too small to have an interest in sports yet, but I’m looking forward to it,” Monfort said.
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.