They say that winning the lottery is a curse. Countless reports have been published of the tales of the many entrapments newly minted millionaires can fall prey to. Among them: idle relatives, con artists, interior decorators with bad taste and unlimited budgets, cocaine.
But after no one in the nation picked 2, 11, 47, 62 and 63 (Powerball: 17, with a multiplier of 3) — the winners in Wednesday night’s $500 million-plus jackpot — who needs to hear those? Instead, regard stories of joy and wonder offered by recent winners of hundreds of millions of dollars, their narratives of triumph offered via Powerball’s website. Perhaps this will tide you over until Saturday when, as ABC reported, a $675 million jackpot — the largest in history — will be on offer.
Leach, a 50-year-old sweating it out on the graveyard shift at an unspecified job in Michigan, won a $310.5 million jackpot in September. Alas, she took a one-time lump sum payment of $197.4 million rather than an annuity — a rookie mistake that left her with a mere $140 million after taxes. Still, it felt quite good to learn she was a multi-millionaire while waiting for food at a drive-thru during her 1 a.m. lunchbreak.
“Both of my co-workers thought I was playing a joke on them,” said Leach. “One of my co-workers was sure it was a hoax, but after a few minutes he said ‘Get the hell out of here, you’re a winner!’ That is exactly what I did, I clocked out for the final time of my 20-year career and went home.”
There, she learned that Vaughn Avery, her boyfriend of 36 years who urged her to buy her ticket in the first place, had been sent a message about the lottery in his sleep.
“I was in a deep sleep and had actually been dreaming that we had won the Lottery with the tickets I told her to buy,” he said. “As soon as I heard her voice I knew something was going on, but I didn’t think she was going to tell me she had won Powerball.”
Turns out that money, after a fashion, can buy love — or, at least, be placed in its eternal service.
“To know that we will be debt free is an incredible feeling,” Leach said. “Vaughn and I have worked so hard all of our lives to provide for our family and now we can all relax and enjoy spending time together.”
As she “wiped away a tear,” as Powerball reported, she added: “It’s wonderful to know that my kids will be taken care of and won’t have to work like I did. They’ll be able to enjoy life, and that makes me incredibly happy.”
Cockrum was a 58-year-old who spent six years with an Episcopal religious order where, for a time, he lived in silence. In 2009, he came home to Tennessee to take care of his aging parents. There, in 2014, he won a $259.8 million jackpot — $115 million in a lump-sum payment, after taxes.
“I really believe the best way to prepare for this tsunami of cash has been to live under a vow of poverty for a number of years,” Cockrum said. “It gives great perspective.”
Before he went to live among monks, Cockburn worked in the theater for two decades. But instead of seeking a life in the spotlight — “My goal is to stay off the TV shows about lottery winners,” he said last year — he decided to fund those who tread the boards at, most recently, two theaters in Chicago.
“What better way to support actors than to give them a chance to be hired at a major theater when they would not otherwise be hired?” he said. “The best way to help starving artists is to give them a chance to work.” He added: “Culture is what enriches us all. We are all in trouble when the arts are not supported, when there is no seed of change.”
Holmes, a 26-year-old former high school basketball star, took life one day at a time. The single mother of four was in coastal North Carolina, supporting her family by working jobs at Walmart, Food Lion, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway. Then, in February, she won a third of a $564 million jackpot and took home a lump-sum payment of $87.9 million after taxes.
“I started screaming and jumping around,” she said. “I said to my kids, ‘You just don’t understand what this means.’”
Holmes’s jackpot may have meant more than most. Sure, the money will allow her to buy her mom a house, complete her education, donate to charity and make sure her three daughters never want for anything again. But it also offered hope for her 7-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy.
“I hope that this moment can shine a light on the challenges faced by children and adults with cerebral palsy,” she said. “Not everyone understands what cerebral palsy is, and what it means to a family. I hope our story can help change that.” She added: “I am humbled and grateful for the opportunities this has created for my family.”
Postscript: Those seeking schadenfreude after a few hundred words worth of positivity should note that, earlier this week, Holmes bailed her fiance, who faces drug-related charges, out of jail, paying $12 million. She also covered a $3 million bond for him last year.
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