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Missouri family celebrates Powerball jackpot

2:02 PM, Nov 30, 2012   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) - Mark Hill, 52, a Missouri mechanic, and his wife, Cindy, claimed their share Friday of the record $587.5 million Powerball jackpot.

The Missouri couple, who had been in and out of work the past two years, randomly chose numbers through Quick Pick to win one of the richest lottery prizes in U.S. history.

The Hills split the winnings with another ticketholder who bought a ticket in Arizona. That person hadn't come forward as of Friday afternoon.

Each ticketholder is entitled to $294 million, which they can receive in a lump-sum cash payout or in annual payouts over 30 years. Cindy Hill said they'll opt for the lump-sum payout, which totals about $192 million before taxes.

"We're still stunned by what's happened," Cindy Hill said at a news conference Friday with Mark, their sons, Jason, Jared and Cody and daughter, Jaden. "It's surreal. We haven't even thought about what to buy. I just want to be back home and be back to normal."

Mark Hill said he called his boss when he found out he had won to tell him he wasn't coming back to work. The Hills have set up college funds for their grandchildren, nephews and nieces and plan a few vacations. Jaden also gets what she wanted for Christmas: a pony.

Cindy Hill initially spoke for the family when they stepped into the limelight in the gym at North Platte High School, where Mark and Cindy had once been high school sweethearts.

She said they're a hard-working family that "knows the value of a dollar." Besides college funds and some travel, the couple said they would support charities in the adoption field. Jaden was adopted from China.

The family described their initial disbelief and delight.

Cindy Hill said she had just dropped off her daughter at school Thursday morning when she climbed back into her car and checked the numbers on her tickets. As the numbers lined up, she started to shake. But she didn't have her glasses on, she recalled, as she re-enacted how she squinted at a ticket and asked herself over and over, "Are those the right numbers?"

She called her husband, Mark, at home.

"I think I'm having a heart attack," she told him, after revealing they were lottery-winners.

The next 24-hours have been a whirlwind of meetings with lottery officials, hotel stays and Friday's press conference. The Hills stressed that the deluge of money won't change the family.

"I hope we stay grounded," son Jason Hill said. "I hope we stay the great people we were yesterday and the day before."

The money will help. The company Mark Hill worked for shut down two years ago and he only recently found new employment. Cindy Hill has been unemployed and missed a phone-in job interview Thursday in the excitement of claiming the prize.

"t's been really tough," she said. "But we survived."

Cindy Hill said the family plans to stay in the same area to raise their daughter and will not change their lifestyle much. They'll still go to the corner café for breakfast and fish day and shop at the same stores.

"We're normal human beings," Cindy Smith said. "We just have a little bit more money."

The Hills will split the jackpot with another ticket holder - still unidentified - in Arizona

Dearborn is a close-knit town of 496 residents carved into farmland between Kansas City and St. Joseph. The ticket was sold at a Trex Mart near I-29 a few miles west of town.

Friends and neighbors of Hill and his family told the Today show that they know the jackpot winners are sports lovers who might have based their number picks on the uniform numbers of great Kansas City Royals players. But Cindy said she picked her numbers at random, though the Hills are big Royals fans.

Myron Anderson, pastor of the Baptist church in nearby Camden Point, said he heard Thursday that the Hills had won the huge lottery prize. Anderson said he has known Mark Hill since they attended high school together.

"He's a really nice guy, and I know his wife, and they have this nice little adopted daughter that they went out of their way to adopt," Anderson said. Funeral services for Hill's father were at the Baptist church, but the family attends church elsewhere, he said.

"I hope it's good news for them," Anderson said. "I've heard awful horror stories about people who get all that money in their lap and how everybody treats them, and if you don't mind me saying, I mean just the fact that the press is going to be after them."

Kevin Bryan, a lifelong Dearborn resident, said the only other local lottery winner he could remember was a farmer who won about $100,000 in scratch-off game years ago "and bought himself a combine."

Cindy Hill said she picked the numbers at random so it's just coincidental that they match up well with some Royals stars: George Brett (5); Mark Gubicza (16); Bo Jackson (22); Dennis Leonard (29), Dan Quisenberry (29); and Willie Wilson (6).

Kansas City's spring training home happens to be in Arizona, where lottery officials reported the other winning ticket was sold. No Arizona winner has been confirmed.

That may be because the ticket holder is taking the advice from Arizona Lottery spokesman Karen Bach: "Be thoughtful, and make some plans. We recommend they seek out a financial adviser.''

The second winning ticket was sold at the 4 Sons Food Store in Fountain Hills, Ariz., northeast of Phoenix. It's a scenic suburb nestled between mountains and a Native American casino on the Valley's northeast fringe. Store co-owner Eric Seitz estimates 90%-95% of his customers are Fountain Hills residents, and he said many of them are well-known to employees.

The store's owners receive a $25,000 bonus for selling the winning jackpot ticket. Co-owner Eric Seitz hinted it might go toward contributions to charities or bigger Christmas bonuses for employees.

Seitz, the chain's general manager, said he does not know who bought the winning ticket, but lottery officials told him it was purchased within 36 hours of Tuesday night's drawing.

"It's fun. I'm happy someone won in Fountain Hills and Arizona. It's a blast,'' he said. "It's good luck for Arizona's side. Maybe it's turning around for us.''

Customer Lori Derwent of Fountain Hills said she is happy for the winner, regardless of who that might be, and hopes it is someone who could use the money.

"I think it's great. In these kind of times, especially around Christmas, it's nice to see a little bit of Christmas magic,'' said Derwent, who was busy working Tuesday and did not buy a ticket.

Wednesday's winner in Arizona will have 60 days to chose between a 30-year annuity or a lump-sum cash payment.

 

USA TODAY

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