larry ross lottery winner

Winning Ticket Pays Off With Ecstasy, and Agony

He has been a hard-working swimming pool installer for years. But now, Larry Ross is up to his ears in something other than water.

He’s swimming in money.

The jocular, 47-year-old pool man from Utica, Mich., who Tuesday plunked down a $100 bill for a hot dog and 98 tickets to the biggest lottery jackpot in the nation’s history, came up a winner, emerging Friday with one of the two winning tickets to the $363-million multi-state Big Game lottery.

“We’re still in a stunned mode,” Ross said at a lighthearted news conference Friday, adding that he has not eaten or slept since realizing that he owned one of the winning tickets. “We’re humbled. It’s phenomenal.”

It took a while after Tuesday night’s drawing–anxiously awaited by millions of ticket-holding millionaire wannabes–before Ross realized that one of his tickets had the winning numbers: 33, 2, 1, 12, 37 and Big Money Ball 4.

He bought the ticket–only at the urging of his wife, Nancy–at Mr. K’s Party Shoppe in a strip mall about 20 miles north of Detroit. Then he wrote down the numbers incorrectly on the night of the drawing. And he did not check his tickets until Wednesday morning.

“I woke up the next morning [and] the tickets were on the counter,” he said. “I happened to turn on the TV and the guy I bought the tickets from was on the TV. I said: ‘This is just too freaky.’ ”

‘I Started Doing the Lottery Dance’

After looking at the winning ticket, Ross concluded that the numbers matched–but he did not notice that the ticket also had the bonus “money ball” number until his wife pointed it out.

“Jesus, they match!” he told his wife. “I invented a new dance. I started doing the lottery dance.”

Now the enormity of his good fortune has hit home. The hefty, mustachioed Ross appeared giddy and just a bit teary-eyed as he stood before the cameras with his wife, sons Ian, 21, and Eric, 25, and daughter, Shannon, 12.

“You have the ecstasy of winning and then you start realizing the agony of what might happen,” Ross said. “You’ve got security problems now. You think about your family, who’s at risk. We’re not in a secure neighborhood. We don’t have security like rich people have.”

But now Ross is one of the “rich people.” He and his family will receive a lump-sum cash payment–some $90 million before taxes. They turned down the option of taking their winnings in annual installments totaling $181.5 million over 26 years.

A second winning Big Game ticket holder has yet to be identified. Lottery officials said that the other winning ticket was sold at a gas station in Lake Zurich, Ill., about 30 miles northwest of Chicago. Whoever owns the ticket has not contacted Illinois lottery officials.

Partly because of concerns about security, the Ross family already is planning to leave their four-bedroom ranch-style house in a middle-class, lakefront community. Not that their neighbors can blame them.

“If I had that kind of money, I’d move too,” said John Leysen, 58, whose house is across the street from the Rosses.

Once-Quiet Neighbors Speaking Up Now

Leysen, who has lived there for nearly three decades, said that it is the sort of place where neighbors know one another but do not interact much. He recognized Ross on television as the same man he has seen driving a gold pickup truck around the neighborhood. “This is a subdivision where the garage door goes up and then it goes down,” Leysen said. “You don’t see much more than that of your neighbors.

“I’ve never spoken to them, [but] I’d like to say I was their best friend.”

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said Ross seems like a nice person who deserves his good fortune. But she took mild offense at his description of their neighborhood. “He shouldn’t have said we’re not a secure neighborhood. We’re a nice neighborhood.”

Then she added that perhaps Ross would be better off with a larger house. “He’s got an old boat and car and a lot of junk all around his house.”

Ross said that he plays the lottery infrequently and was so unfamiliar with the system that, asked whether he wanted a lump sum or annuity, he did not quite understand the difference. He initially chose the annuity but, after meeting with financial planners and an attorney, he decided on the lump-sum payment.

Although he had been warned about the attention he would get from the media, he was overwhelmed initially when he confronted television cameras as he arrived at the Michigan lottery office to claim his winnings.

“When he came in here he was like, ‘Wow!” said Stephani Schlinker, a spokeswoman for the Michigan lottery commission. “People know they’re coming into a lot of money, but they don’t comprehend it.”

On the Wish List: A Purple Jaguar

Ross said that his newfound wealth does not mean that he will leave his swimming pool customers high and dry. He is planning to turn the business over to his sons. And Nancy Ross hopes to do charity work, although the family has not yet decided which charities they will help. “We will put the money to use for something good,” Larry Ross said.

Meantime, the family is drawing up a shopping list of must-haves: That secure new house. A boat. Their first summer vacation in 13 years. For Larry Ross, retirement and a new job “playing golf.”

And–oh, yes–something his wife has always wanted: a purple Jaguar.

Lottery: Michigan family celebrates its newfound wealth but also quickly assesses the cost of winning. ]]>