The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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December 19, 2013

Georgia woman has 1 of 2 winning lottery tickets

ATLANTA — A Georgia woman who bought just one ticket and used family birthdays and lucky No. 7 to choose her numbers was one of two winners of the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot, the second largest in U.S. history.

Lottery officials in Georgia identified the winner as Ira Curry, of Stone Mountain, which is east of Atlanta. Curry will take a lump sum of about $120 million after taxes, Georgia Lottery chief executive Debbie Alford said.

“She has not decided how she’ll spend those winnings,” Alford said at a news conference that Curry did not attend.  

The other winning ticket was sold at a gift shop in San Jose, Calif. The winner there has one year to come forward.

Curry was driving to work Wednesday when an announcer on the radio talked about the Mega Ball being 7. Curry knew that was her Mega Ball number, so she called her daughter to check the ticket.

“Between joyful tears and laughter on the daughter’s part, she relayed to her mother that her mother had won the lottery,” Alford said.

Alford wouldn’t say where Curry worked or how old she was. A person who answered the phone at a listing for Curry said, “We are not interested in any publicity, thank you for calling” and then hung up.

Curry, her husband and other family members came to the lottery headquarters to claim the prize, surprising lottery officials who thought the winner may take some time to get their affairs in order before coming forward.

Alford said the news didn’t hit home for Curry until lottery officials told her congratulations.

“She said she was just in a state of disbelief,” Alford said.

The winning ticket in Georgia was sold at a newsstand in Buckhead, a financial center of Atlanta about 10 miles from Stone Mountain Park. The park features an 825-foot-tall mountain that covers about 1 square mile. There are golf courses, camping, bike and walking trails there as well as a carving depicting Confederate heroes of the Civil War, including Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Curry’s house is just a few miles from the park. A man who answered the door in a neighborhood of brick and stucco houses with manicured lawns said the family did not want to speak publicly. The two-story home had a two-car garage and a basketball hoop.

Neighbor Kaliah Ladler, 18, said the Curry family was humble.

“Some people get big headed but I don’t think they’ll get big headed. They will probably use it for good,” she said.

Francis Boudreaux, who lives across the street from the Currys, said he was happy for the family but sad because they will probably move now.

“I think they will start doing a whole lot of traveling,” he said.

The ticket was sold at the Gateway Newsstand in the Alliance Center building, which is home to a variety of offices, including lawyers, financial services professionals and even the Brazilian Consulate General.

The newsstand is a small, narrow shop with one register. It can hold about 10 people at a time and it is located near the lobby.

Young Soo Lee owns the store with her husband, Young Lee. She grinned as she arrived Wednesday morning.

“I’m so excited and so happy now,” Young Soo Lee said. “I love my store and the customer.”

Earlier media reports indicated the couple would receive a bonus for selling a winning ticket, but Georgia Lottery spokeswoman Tandi Reddick clarified that’s not the case.

“They do have the distinction of being known as the lucky store now, and that’s always great news for them,” Reddick said.

The California store owner — Thuy Nguyen of Jennifer’s Gift Shop in San Jose — will get $1 million, lottery officials there said.

“When people hear jackpot winner was sold here, everybody want to come here,” said Thuy Nguyen, the owner of Jenny’s Gift and Kids Wear shop. “They call my shop lucky Buddha.”

Nguyen sells a variety of items, including Buddha statues, Vietnamese DVDs, clocks and flip flops. The former hairstylist took over the shop four months ago after emigrating from Vietnam in the early 1990s.

The parking lot outside his store amid a cluster of Vietnamese and Chinese businesses was crowded with more than a dozen television news vans. Inside, Nguyen rang up lottery ticket sales from a steady stream of customers, many of whom congratulated him.

“I’m excited, happy,” he said.

The jackpot started its ascent Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners.

Some $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday’s drawing.

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