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The Year's Big Lottery Winners Say Their Lives Have Changed Little

December 25, 1987|DAVID JOHNSTON | Times Staff Writer

So your $1 California lottery ticket came up a big winner, showering you with as much as $25 million.

Time for a Christmas shopping spree?

No way, say 10 of the 88 individuals and families who this year won $1 million or more--to be paid over 20 years--in the California lottery.

All of the lucky winners who could be located and were willing to talk said that instead of joining America's December spending frenzy with a vengeance, they spent modestly on Christmas. It is an attitude confirmed by a Florida scholar, H. Roy Kaplan, who said modest Christmas gift-buying is typical of what he has found in 16 years of studying big winners in state-sponsored lotteries.

"We aren't doing anything flamboyant," said Yvonne Baker of Hanford, a San Joaquin Valley farming community. Her husband, dairy farmer Otto Baker, 60, bought a lottery ticket last August that will pay $4.37 million, before taxes, over the next 20 years. The Bakers will get annual checks for $179,000, their share after the IRS takes its initial 20% cut. (More taxes may have to be paid later.)

'Worked Hard All Our Lives'

"We're older, stable people who have worked hard all our lives," Yvonne Baker said, "and we plan to just keep on doing it." She said most of their first-year check has gone into building a 100-by-60-foot farm shop to house and repair tractors and other equipment needed to maintain their 360 cows, and to other long-delayed improvements to the dairy they have run for 36 years.

"We bought pretty much the same this year as before," said Arlie Ragle of Anaheim, a father of seven and grandfather of 13 who last June won a 20-year annuity worth $2.3 million before taxes.

"We spent our money on a new home and a van and things we wanted, but not on Christmas," Ragle said. "But next year we will probably spend more on Christmas."

The $93,000 first-year check meant moving out of a double-wide mobile home into a four-bedroom house "with a pool, a spa--the whole works," Ragle, 61, said. "And it meant I could retire" as a maintenance supervisor at the Hitco Co. aircraft equipment plant in Gardena.

Robert A. Bell, 68, of Inglewood, a retired Terminal Annex post office foreman, said he has not spent one cent Christmas shopping even though on June 6 he won an annuity worth $4.4 million, before taxes.

"Shopping is the last thing you'll see me do," Bell said. "I hate it with such a passion that my wife buys my clothes."

Evesta Bell confirmed her husband's distaste for stores and crowds but said she loves shopping.

'I Still Penny Pinch'

Because of their lottery winnings, Evesta Bell said, "I bought a few more expensive things" for her husband, grown daughter and one cousin. "I still penny pinch. I really do. And my nephews all laugh at me, but I'll probably never get out of that."

"We did the same as we do every year," said John Rodriguez, 70, of Calexico, a retired bottle cap plant foreman who last March 21 won an annuity worth $2.6 million, before taxes.

"I figure we spent maybe 10% more on Christmas this year," he said.

But Rodriguez said he and his wife, Carmen, did their buying on a trip to China and Hong Kong financed with part of their first-year check for $107,000 and that next year they plan a cruise with their four grandchildren.

Herbert C. Briggs, 57, a Stockton railroad engineer who won $11.6 million last July, said through a California lottery spokesman that his new-found fortune had not affected the family Christmas shopping in any way.

Dolby R. Marple, 58, a retired Air Force employee who lives in the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks, said that not only did he not go on a December shopping spree, but "we don't have a tree as large as we usually do. To us, Christmas is the birth of Christ so we don't go overboard." He said that after the couple won an annuity last Jan. 31 worth $9.2 million, the first major check they wrote was to their church.

Marple said his grandson, Chad Armstrong, 13, of North Highland, near Sacramento, "is going to have the biggest" present to open. "We got him a Tandy computer with color monitor, the whole nine yards. I figure he will get a lot of use out of it."

Marple added that months ago he and his wife, Tamzia, handed out gifts to their four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren in lieu of big Christmas presents. Marple said his wife got two fur coats and the couple bought each other diamond rings. Marple also bought a Cadillac, "which I always wanted but figured I could never afford."

He said in the coming months they also will take their relatives on trips of their choosing anywhere in the world. "I told them those were early Christmas presents," he said.

Frank Zummallen, 45, a Fresno schoolteacher, similarly thought that "the whole year's been like Christmas" since Jan. 3, when he won an annuity worth $3.43 million. Zummallen said he bought his winning ticket with money he would have spent on cigarettes, a habit he said he has successfully kicked.

Spent More for Christmas

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