Anyone within an arm's length of Rose Marie Carter yesterday afternoon got a big hug.
The Ellicott City woman had just found out she was the winner of $4.5 million in Wednesday's Lotto drawing, and she admitted she was having trouble containing her happiness.
"I don't remember what I said when they told me, but I still can't believe it is happening to a hillbilly like me," said Mrs. Carter, who has been a food service worker with the Howard County schools for 15 years. "I thought it was a joke."
A cook in the Owen Brown Middle School cafeteria, she bought a $25 subscription card Nov. 8 and let the machine pick the numbers.
Even though she will be receiving $163,125 annually for the next 20 years, Mrs. Carter said she will continue to work for the county school system, as she has since 1977.
"I am going to work until I am eligible to collect my retirement. I have worked too long for them to take that away from me," she said.
Samuel Hughes, her son-in-law, reminded her that the interest on her lottery winnings will be far greater than "that measly little retirement check."
For Wednesday's drawing, 2.4 million tickets were sold. Mrs. Carter, who moved to Maryland from Wilson, N.C., in the mid-1950s, had a 1-in-6.9 million chance of winning, according to Maryland Lottery officials.
But if state officials had not contacted Mrs. Carter, she would not have known that she had won. Although she had the subscription -- her third -- and buys weekly Lotto tickets, she never checks them, she said.
The odds and which numbers might win were not on her mind yesterday afternoon at the lottery agency's headquarters.
"I don't want my life to change. I like it the way it is," said the widow of 15 years.
"I really don't want to be richy-rich. I am really having trouble grasping how much money this is."
Asked about her age, she responded, "I am old enough to know how to handle my money."
With her new fortune, Mrs. Carter plans to buy a new car to replace her 1986 Pontiac Firebird, which she then will give to one of her six grandchildren.
She said she also will help a friend buy a car, put some new carpet in her house and take a trip with her boyfriend.
"I am also going to the beauty parlor and get my hair fixed so I'll be real sexy," she said.
She said that a line she heard in a soap opera earlier this week now pertains to her: "It is my time to live."