Lottery winners stay low-key

21 in grocery store pool splitting $175,000 Mega Millions prize

August 08, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Pay off bills. Take a trip. Start saving for a new home.

Employees at Eddie's Supermarket on North Charles Street plan to do those things and more now that 20 of them and an employee's son are $5,458 richer, after taxes, after splitting $175,000 in the Maryland Lottery last week.

The group correctly matched the first five numbers in the Mega Millions game -- 10, 16, 23, 28 and 31. They were one number (7) from splitting the big prize of $33 million.

"I just bought my husband a car today, a Hyundai Elantra," said winner Debbie Miller, 39, deli manager.

"I'm going to pay my college tuition," said Towson University computer science major Marcy Larrimore, 33, also a deli employee.

James Harrison, 61, said he plans to pay a few bills and extend an already planned vacation to Connecticut this month with his wife, Lellie.

News of the group's winnings hasn't been the buzz at Eddie's that you might expect. General Manager Steve Kuehn said some customers wanted to know who won. A few joked about borrowing a little money and said that had the group gotten the last number correct, the store would be short 20 employees.

But there hasn't been a lot of hoopla in the store.

There's no sign in the window announcing the lottery winnings. And the only festive balloons in the store are the ones for sale in the gift department.

Perhaps it would be a different story had the group correctly matched the Mega Ball number, landing them the $33 million prize. If so, winners would have had two choices: receive $39,285 annually after taxes for the next 26 years; or accept a lump sum payment of $557,142 after taxes, said Jimmy White, Maryland Lottery spokesman.

The 21 people are thankful for the cash windfall. Manny Villarruel, one of the market's bakers, plans to send some of his winnings to relatives in Argentina.

Assistant Manager Andrew Gleeson plans to throw a big party for his son, Tommy, who turns 1 on Saturday. He also plans to give his wife money and save the rest to help buy a bigger home.

He said he thinks the group was meant to win. For starters, a former employee stole the group's lottery pool in April, Gleeson said. Store officials caught him on tape but didn't press charges after he returned the money. Second, Villarruel normally purchases the tickets but opted to let employee Mike Childress, 30, buy them last week.

"On Friday, Manny said, `I never have any luck. Mike, why don't you buy them?'" Gleeson recalled.

Childress, who works in the grocery department, said he normally wouldn't have purchased the tickets until noon or 1 p.m., while on lunch break, but decided to get them on his way to work instead.

"I had the tickets [at home] but didn't even know we had won," Childress said yesterday. "Jeff Macis, the grocery manager, called me to tell me not to lose the tickets because we'd won."

Childress said he will use part of the money for Christmas gifts for his daughter, Hailey, 4.

Some of the winners, like Joyce Habicht, 62, and Tony Etzel, 60, were at work when news broke.

"Manny called Tony on the phone," Habicht said. "I was all the way at the other end of the gourmet counter, and Tony started hollering. When I got up there, Tony kept saying, `We, we, we, we, we,' and I said, `We what?' He said, `We hit! We won!'"

Theresa Greeson, 46, works in the bakery section. She was at the beach shopping, debating whether to buy a $100 bathing suit when her daughter, Stacey Greeson, 19, called with the news. "I bought that bathing suit and another," said the elder Greeson, who has also purchased a computer.

The winners will receive their checks in the next several days, White said.

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