The Powerball drawing had two jackpot winners, one in Arizona and one in Missouri. The winning numbers were 5, 16, 22, 23, 29, and a Powerball of 6.
Lincoln jackpot winners learned to deal with people 'with expectations'
COOK, Neb. — The sign along the concrete driveway says “E Z Acres.” The four deer heads hanging in a tree along the driveway speak of the abundant game on the secluded 205 acres of timber that surrounds a pond that is a fall magnet for ducks and geese.
But Eric Zornes, owner of this spread, will tell you that winning part of a $365 million Powerball lottery jackpot is not always a ride on easy street.
A stock market plunge, an unfriendly divorce, and family and friends with hopes of sharing in the prize can erode your windfall and sour the magic carpet ride of sudden riches.
“You've got all these people ... with expectations,” he said. “That's probably the curse of the lottery.”
Zornes, 47, has been there, done that. He is one of the eight workers at a Lincoln food processing plant who took home $15.5 million each after taxes in February 2006 after winning what ranked then as the highest payout ever in the multi-state Powerball lottery.
The jackpot in that game grew to $550 million, the second-largest ever, for Wednesday's drawing.
Zornes, two fellow Lincoln lottery winners and an attorney who advised them had this advice for people who win the lottery:
Enjoy your money, but move slowly, take some time to let the reality of not working and sitting on a pile of cash sink in. Stick to a budget, invest wisely, learn to say no and be prepared to lose some friends when you suddenly become a millionaire.
Michael Terpstra said he was terrified when he won, convinced that he would lose all of the money and have to return to work. He bought a new truck and a luxury home in southeast Lincoln, but otherwise he has spent his winnings conservatively, relying on accountants and lawyers for investment advice.
Taking up golf is one of his few indulgences. He formed a charitable foundation that has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his hometown high school in York, Neb., and a local food pantry.
“I can't buy a super yacht. I can't buy a Gulfstream,” said Terpstra, 54. “Then again, I don't think I'd use either one, so why would I buy one?”
Dave Gehle, 59, waited several years before he moved out of his modest one-story home in central Lincoln to a $450,000 home in a new development. He continued to scoop snow off his elderly neighbors' driveways after his big win, albeit with a brand-new snowblower.
He has taken up scuba diving and visited Australia, Vietnam and New Guinea. But mostly he's the same guy who worked the night shift for 20 years at Cook Family Foods.
“My roots are in Nebraska, and I'm not all that much different now than I was before,” Gehle said.
“I'm pretty normal. I never was the kind of guy who went for big expensive cars or anything like that. I just want something that runs.”
Tragic tales of big lottery winners who lose their fortunes and friends are not uncommon. A West Virginia man blamed his granddaughter's fatal drug overdose, his divorce, hundreds of lawsuits and an absence of true friends on cashing a $315 million lottery ticket a decade ago.
A two-time New Jersey lottery winner squandered her $5.4 million fortune. Edwin Frahm of Burchard, Neb., had to flee to an unlisted address in Colorado after family members harassed him for a share of the $23 million prize he won in Kansas in 1990.
Zornes said he was glad he and his now ex-wife bought homes in Reno, Lincoln and Cook for three family members and set up another with a taekwondo business. But he said it's easy to be taken advantage of.
He lost 130 acres of hunting ground and $150,000 in settling his 2011 divorce, which he says still isn't final. That's after taking a financial hit in the stock market in 2009. He's got more conservative investments now but hasn't fully recovered what he lost.
“You wanna buy a house?” Zornes asked.
He's got two to sell: a, 2,200-square-foot, $500,000 brick home on a dusty gravel road near Tecumseh, Neb., that was built for his wife and looks like it would fit in any upscale neighborhood in Omaha, and a smaller house he purchased for his brother.
“Yeah, I got money, land,” Zornes said. “But you've got to be careful with your money.”
He remarried in June, and his wife has three small children who hugged him after arriving home from school. He's got seven dogs, a handful of horses and two late-model pickup trucks.
But his one-story ranch home at E Z Acres — with a rifle shooting range and a spotting scope on the back porch — doesn't come close to screaming “millionaire.”
“Lottery winner” is a label you live with, Zornes said. His children get some razzing in school about it, but he said he mostly escapes the spotlight at his wooded wildlife area in Cook.
Attorney Jim Hoppe, who has helped a handful of the Lincoln lottery winners, said he's read that 75 percent of lottery winners lose their wealth in a decade. He said he's not surprised that hasn't happened to the Lincoln winners.
“They know what the numbers are. They know that even $10 to $12 million isn't infinite. It can be squandered away,” Hoppe said.
His advice for lottery winners: “Step back and let the dust settle.”
“Try a little self-denial at the start,'' he added. “Give yourself time to be accustomed that you have the money.”
Riches can solve some problems, he said, but people always argue about money, whether they have a little or a lot.
Gifts by married couples to family members, Hoppe said, can cause friction. Everyone has a brother-in-law he doesn't like, he said, so there needs to be an understanding and agreement about who gets what.
One of the Lincoln lottery winners, Rob Stewart, was divorced shortly after the 2006 prize. But he remarried a fellow winner, Chasity Rutjens, and the couple now have a $1 million acreage outside Lincoln.
Rutjens set up a charitable foundation that has given money to Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Alain Maboussou, who moved to Omaha, also has a foundation that has donated to the Siena-Francis House and the Down Syndrome Association in recent years.
Quang Dao, a Vietnamese refugee, bought homes and businesses for his family. He is in Vietnam now, where he owns a home.
Dung Tran, also a Vietnamese refugee, built a luxury home in Lincoln's fashionable Fallbrook area. He bought 22 Powerball tickets Tuesday at the same Lincoln U-Stop where he purchased the winning ticket six years ago.
Zornes, dressed in flip-flops, sweatpants and a oversized flannel shirt as he talked in his rural driveway, said he's been watching the news and noticing the jackpot's climb.
He said his biggest gambling indulgence these days is Texas Hold 'Em poker contests, but he will buy a few lottery tickets every time the jackpot climbs over $140 million or so. He bought $20 worth for Wednesday's drawing.
“You can't win if you don't play,” Zornes said. “I'd like to see someone win it again. It was a good feeling.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.