Retired health physicist builds LEGO models for a good cause

Bill Fields Disney Castle
Bill Fields builds LEGO models which are on display at Villa Ventura Retirement Center, 119th & Wornall. Photo by Julie Cupp

Retiree builds LEGO models for a good cause

By Zoe Dunning

When I visited Villa Ventura Retirement Community, Bill Fields welcomed me and led me to his LEGO Room. I was astonished at the size and intricacy of his 52 models on display.

Fields is a lifetime LEGO lover and retired health physicist. During his 43-year-long career, he was responsible for establishing the safety protocol of nuclear reactors, atom bombs and other hazardous materials to limit radiation exposure. He set up a safety program for nuclear reactors at the University of Columbia, where he also developed a course in health physics back in 1964 that is still being taught today. After leaving the college, Fields transferred to Kansas City. Acting as the director of the Office of Chemical, Biological and Radiation Safety, he was responsible for the oversight and use of hazardous materials and radiation-producing devices.

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One day Fields saw a model of a submarine in a store window. He was immediately interested, so he purchased the model and put it together. “One of my kids told me that I ought to try LEGOs, so I did,” Fields reminisces. Early on, LEGO kits ranged from a few hundred pieces to thousands. The builder would have to spread them out and look for the individual ones they needed.

Now the kits are designed to be much easier for assembly. The pieces come in numbered bags by sections and specific piece numbers are identified in the instructions. “Still, some finesse has to be worked into building the models,” Fields cautions. “Sometimes the instructions aren’t clear enough about which color piece to use.” His advice for novice LEGO builders? Be patient and take your time. You usually must start from the beginning and build through to the end. Don’t interrupt the process but follow the instructions page by page.

For the past 45 years, he’s been building LEGO models strictly as a hobby, which he says

Bill Fields ship
Fields with his favorite model the Taj Mahal and pirate ship. 

can be very addictive as well as pleasurable and relaxing. His collection has grown to an impressive 110 models, but only about half are on display in the LEGO Room. Although it’s near impossible for him to choose his most-liked, Fields identifies one of his earliest models, the 5,923-piece Taj Mahal, as a favorite. Other famous landmarks in his collection include the London Bridge (4,295 pieces), Big Ben (4,163 pieces) and the Eiffel Tower (3,428 pieces). He even has the Disney Castle, Ghostbuster house, Bat Cave and Batmobile, and entire shelves of Star Wars models!

By building models, Fields hopes to show the other residents at Villa Ventura that despite old age, eye problems and arthritis (like he has), it’s still possible to have a hobby. “Get out there and do it!” he urges. “We don’t have to sit in our apartments and waste away.” The LEGO Room also acts as a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s, since his wife died of the disease. Visitors are encouraged to make voluntary donations.

Visit the LEGO Room at Villa Ventura Retirement Community at 12100 Wornall Rd. to make a voluntary donation to fund Alzheimer’s research and awareness.

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