Cindy Hill, a laid-off office manager who lives in a small town in Missouri, called her husband Thursday with urgent news that would change everything: "We won the lottery."
"What?" he asked.
"We won the lottery," she repeated. But Mark Hill, a 52-year-old mechanic who works at a meat processing plant, is the kind of person who carefully checks the prices for everything he buys, and he needed proof. This is the "Show-Me State" after all.
He drove to his mother's house, where his wife was waiting with their quick-pick ticket, and confirmed for himself that the numbers matched those drawn for a record $588 million Powerball jackpot that they'll share with an unknown winner who bought a ticket in Arizona.
Missouri lottery officials officially introduced the Hills as winners Friday in front of reporters and townspeople gathered at the high school in Dearborn, which is about 40 miles north of Kansas City. The announcement was not a surprise. The Hills' name began circulating Thursday, soon after lottery officials said a winning ticket had been sold at a Trex Mart gas station and convenience store on the edge of town.
The Hills chose to take their winnings in a lump sum, not annual payments. Lottery officials estimated the cash payment at about $385 million, or about $192.5 million for each ticket.
The oversized novelty check handed to the Hills on Friday was written in the amount of $293,750,000, butMissouri Lottery spokeswoman Susan Goedde said that after taxes, they will receive about $136.5 million.
"We're still stunned by what's happened," said Cindy Hill, 51, who was laid off in June 2010. "It's surreal."
The couple have three grown sons and a 6-year-old daughter they adopted from China five years ago. They said they are now considering a second adoption with their winnings, and they plan to help other relatives, including their grandchildren and nieces and nephews, pay for college. They're planning vacations, and their daughter, Jaiden, wants a pony. Mark Hill has his eye on a red Camaro.
More immediately, they're preparing for "a pretty good Christmas" and anticipating an onslaught of requests for financial help.
"When it's that big of a Powerball, you're going to get people coming out of the woodwork, some of them might not be too sane," Cindy Hill said. "We have to protect our family and grandkids."
The jackpot was the second-largest in U.S. history and set off a nationwide buying frenzy, with tickets at one point selling at nearly 130,000 per minute. The other winning ticket was sold at 4 Sons Food Store in Fountain Hills near Phoenix. No one has come forward with it yet, lottery officials said.
Before Wednesday's drawing, the jackpot had rolled over 16 consecutive times without someone hitting the jackpot.
Myron Anderson, pastor of the Baptist Church in nearby Camden Point, said he heard Thursday that the Hills had won the huge 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."
In a Mega Millions drawing in March, three ticket buyers shared a $656 million jackpot, the largest lottery payout of all time.