When Karen Kostenbauder moved to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown in 2018, she did not expect to receive a new nickname. Today, as Karen travels around campus, fellow residents know her as, “The Puzzle Lady,” thanks to her strong dedication towards the hundreds of puzzles shuffling through Masonic Village.
In 2020, when the pandemic disrupted social interaction, Karen began taking puzzles home from various spots on campus for enjoyment. One day when she was returning a few puzzles, she noticed the storage cabinet in Grand Lodge Hall was cluttered and unorganized.
“I simply saw a need when I noticed I could not put my borrowed puzzles back into the cabinet,” Karen said. “The next day, I went back to the storage space and pulled everything out of the cabinet and restacked the puzzles by size to make space for my puzzles and others to follow.”
Determined to piece together the issue at hand, Karen collaborated with Liz Grosh, recreation coordinator, to locate all puzzle storage areas on campus. Soon after, Karen began visiting 10 different locations to sort, declutter and organize the extensive puzzle collections.
Karen also creates monthly puzzle guidelines for Masonic Village puzzle enthusiasts to follow. She encourages residents to label puzzles with missing pieces and leave any desired comments about their experiences with the puzzle for others to read. The guidelines are intended to keep communication strong among puzzlers and maintain tidy storage areas.
As the puzzle collection continued to grow, Karen was given the James Buchanan conference room to serve as the Masonic Village Puzzle Center. The center is home to a substantial number of off-season puzzles that are cycled through the different locations across campus.
“I keep all the puzzles in the conference room categorized to keep it all organized,” Karen said. “The puzzles are categorized by seasonal themes and levels of difficulty.”
In the past, Karen hosted a “Puzzle Purging Party,” where residents came together to sort donated puzzles. This party was a huge success and allowed Karen to better control the number of puzzles stored in the puzzle center.
Karen does not own any puzzles of her own, as she exclaimed, “I have an endless supply here at Masonic Village!” However, her real love for puzzles was inspired by various visits to her grandparents’ home. After suffering from a stroke that left her partially paralyzed, Karen’s grandmother began to work on puzzles routinely. “I always loved helping Grandma with her puzzles,” Karen said.
At age six, Karen completed her favorite puzzle, which was a map of the United States. This puzzle helped her confidently recite all the states and capitals in second grade. To this day, Karen believes puzzles benefit her mind intellectually and allow her to improve dexterity.
While Karen’s efforts aim to guide the circulation of puzzles, she also hopes to grow the puzzling community and encourage fellow residents to take advantage of the vast supply. Karen, “The Puzzle Lady,” has made great organizational strides and helped many residents discover the art of puzzling — one piece at a time.
“I knew the puzzling community needed a point of contact when it came to the many puzzles at Masonic Village,” Karen said. “Simply, I think that is how I became the puzzle lady!”
About the author: Camdyn Lehman is a public relations associate at Masonic Villages. She is majoring in business administration and minoring in marketing at Eastern University.