For the last two years, Brenda and Bruce Beaver have sweated every payment on the house in Mount Airy they bought and remodeled for Mrs. Beaver's beauty salon.
They can relax now. Mrs. Beaver won half of the $7 million Christmas Eve Lotto jackpot, beating the 6.99-million-to-1 odds against matching six of 49 numbers. And she didn't even know it for two days.
In the last-minute rush to clean up her shop on East Ridgeville Boulevard Tuesday night, Mrs. Beaver forgot what she did with the $20 worth of tickets a friend had picked up for her a few hours earlier. She found them Thursday morning when she reopened the shop.
"I just assumed I lost them and didn't think any more of it," Mrs. Beaver said yesterday in a telephone interview. "Then I went upstairs to change a light bulb and discovered them."
Later that day, she was at home checking the numbers on her tickets against those in the newspaper while she talked on the phone with her husband from his construction job in Gaithersburg.
"I got the first three numbers, whatever they were, and then I realized I had the others," she recounted. "I said, 'Bruce, I've got to stop talking. I just won the lottery.' I'm not going to tell you what else I said, but I was rather excited."
Mr. Beaver hurried home to celebrate.
Yesterday morning, the couple showed up at state lottery headquarters in the Reisterstown Road Plaza to claim their share of the jackpot.
Elyn Garrett, lottery spokeswoman, said the Beavers and a North Carolina man who would not allow his name to be released matched the winning numbers, 16, 27, 31, 32, 34 and 45, and will split the money. They each will receive $175,000 a year before taxes for the next 20 years, Ms. Garrett said.
Mrs. Beaver, 39, said she and her husband have been "speechless" for two days and have barely thought about what to do with the money. But one thing's for sure, some of it will go to help Bobby Teter, a childhood friend of Mr. Beaver's who needs a heart transplant.
"My husband always did say that if he ever won the lottery, there's a friend in desperate need of a heart transplant and we'd donate some money to him, so we're going to do that."
Mr. Teter needs $125,000 to cover certain expenses, she said. And his family has been able to raise only $17,000.
And her friend, Morris Jones, is sure to come in for a reward. He bought the tickets. "Jonesy runs errands for me and helps out around the shop," Mrs. Beaver said. "Tuesday he came in and asked if I wanted to buy any Lotto tickets. It was up to $7 million. I had finished my Christmas shopping and I had $20 in my pocket, so I gave it to him."
Mrs. Beaver insists that she's not about to quit working, however.
"I've worked in a beauty salon since I was 15, and I put too much of myself into this place to walk away from it," she said. "Besides, the other operators would be lost if I sold the place."