LAWRENCE — The Smith family – a mom and seven adult children – emerged Friday as the winners of the $429.6 million Powerball jackpot and credited “divine intervention” in helping them pick the numbers.
“It’s the only way you can explain it,” family spokesperson and oldest of the children Valerie Arthur said during a press conference at NJ Lottery headquarters. “No birthdays, no anniversary dates. Through a dream.”
Smith said her 70-year-old mother, Pearlie Mae Smith, purchased the ticket at the 7-Eleven on Chambers Street in her hometown of Trenton. Smith beamed while sitting with her children as Arthur took the podium to discuss the moment they realized they were millionaires.
“I guess you’re all thinking you wish you were me right now,” Arthur said with a laugh. “It was a big shock. It was a bigger shock when we learned we were the only ticket holder.”
Smith, of Trenton, acknowledged she faced challenges as the mother of seven, the youngest of whom is now 38.
“I’m very, very proud of my children,” Smith said. “I made it through by the grace of God.”
The other siblings sharing in “The Smith Family Lottery Pool” win include: Steven Smith, Jacqueline Sessoms, Marsha-Ann Smith, Rene Smith, all of Trenton, and Tracy Smith and Katherine Nunnally, both of Newark.
Arthur, who retired a year ago from her job as an administrator at Edna Mahon Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County, said not all of her siblings had informed their employers about the lottery win before the press conference.
“Are we live?” she asked to a room packed with cameras and reporters. “They’re finding out right now.”
Some of the Smith family members said they plan to continue working, particularly Cathy Smith, who has run a mentoring program for young women for the past 15 years.
“It has been a struggle to get funding,” Arthur said. “Now she has her own funding. She can go and change lives on her own accord.”
Arthur said the family didn’t come forward right away because they wanted to consult with an attorney and other experts first.
“Our first and foremost thought was to educate ourselves,” Arthur said.
The winners hit it big with a $6 purchase. They bought a $2 ticket for the May 4 and 7 drawings and spent an extra $1 to get the “Power Play” option that multiplies the winnings.
They chose the same numbers for both: 5-25-26-44-66 and the Powerball number, 9.
The prize is the sixth-largest jackpot in the game’s history and the biggest amount won by a single ticket sold in New Jersey. No other ticket sold across the country also matched five numbers plus the Powerball.
It was purchased as a cash ticket, meaning they will take their winnings in a lump sum of $284 million or about $204,480,000 after taxes have been deducted.