Thursday, May 26, 2016

Local resident connecting life, longevity with Legos

by Mary Wilson, editor

Kansas City’s Lego Man, as he’s been aptly named, has been building large Lego displays for years. As a child, 84-year-old Bill Fields built many model airplanes and eventually plastic models. When he started working full time, he no longer had the time to focus on building.

“Then, all of a sudden, Star Wars came out, and a couple of those pieces looked interesting, so I thought I’d try one,” said Fields.

Fields has built upwards of 65 Lego models over the years. If they were all on display, they’d easily fill an entire room, said Fields.  Several are out for viewing at Villa Ventura, where Fields has been a resident for just over two years.

Fields worked for the University of Missouri system, and was the first reactor health physicist in Columbia at the research facility there. The facility is currently in its 50th year of operation. While in Columbia on campus for eight years, he was also responsible for classes in the radiology residence, and he developed a radiation safety program for nuclear engineers.

“That course is still being taught today,” said Fields.

When the University of Missouri purchased the University of Kansas City, Fields transferred to the small program of the research of radioactive materials.

“Under our tutelage and monetary help, the program began to grow,” said Fields. “It grew to the point that the pharmacy professor, who oversaw our research, just couldn’t do it anymore. After being recommended by my boss, I was chosen to lead the program.”

He began his career in Kansas City on September 1, 1963, and retired, for the second time, on May 16, 2005. He also provides travel logs, as he has seen and experienced many countries from around the globe. Most recently, he presented a three-part travel log on China.

Fields has two daughters, one son and five grandchildren. He visits family often in the northeast, and when not busy catching the latest theater productions, he stops in the Lego Store in New York City.

“That was fabulous,” said Fields. “I mean, they’ve got these huge Empire State Buildings, yet they don’t sell the models. This one model is at least 14 feet high with millions of pieces to it.”

He has worked to convince the store clerks to offer the models for purchase, though he says he doesn’t know where he would set it up, or how he would be able to build it. Occasionally, the stores will have the larger model kits (that Fields uses for his models), but they are primarily purchased online.

Every once in a while, Fields receives a kit with a missing piece. It could be at the beginning of the process, or at the very end. Fields realizes he is missing a piece when he can’t find it, no matter what stage of the building process he is in. He says that Lego has been accommodating, and will mail him the exact missing piece in about ten days.

“I honestly don’t know how they do that,” said Fields. “The Taj Mahal itself is 5,922 pieces. To not have a piece missing, that’s just impressive.”

The days that Fields isn’t feeling up to par, he takes off from his Lego building. If the pieces are not snapped together exactly, he said it could throw the entire model off. This can wreak havoc on those that involve moving pieces and other mechanics. His daughter orders the Lego kits for Fields, each one taking just a few days to complete, depending on the size and complexity.

When he opens a new kit, he’ll spend a day or two thumbing through the instruction booklet to get a feel for what to expect when he starts to build.

“I’ll work for a few hours, and get to a point where I can’t find one single, tiny, little piece,” said Fields. “So I’ll go do something else and come back a few hours later, and the piece is in plain sight.”

The Ghostbusters firehouse, consisting of 4622 pieces and currently on display at Villa Ventura, was finished in two days. Some are quick to build, and others will take longer.

“Some I’ll have almost totally put together and then realize, ‘you dummy, you made a mistake,’” said Fields. “Then I have to take them apart. It is more difficult taking them apart than it is putting them together.”

Visitors to Villa Ventura (12100 Wornall Road, KC, MO), especially children, are fascinated by Fields and his models. With a dozen or so on display in the common areas, Fields has aspirations of eventually having a permanent display for his work.

“As I tell people, working with the Legos keeps me off the streets and out of the brothels,” said Fields. “Even if you’re elderly and can’t get around as quickly and as far as you used to, there are still things you can do to keep your mind, your muscles and your system active.”

Eventually, the Fields Lego Gallery at Villa Ventura will house the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the London Bridge, the Ghostbusters firehouse, a green grocer, town hall, grand emporium, Parisian restaurant, the Simpson’s Kwik-E-Mart, the Simpson’s home, various planes and automobiles and many, many more. 

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