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Has 1 of 3 Winning Lottery Tickets : 'It's Pinch-Me Time,' Westminster Man Says

October 31, 1988|MARK LANDSBAUM and DAVID FREED | Times Staff Writers

A Westminster man who rarely plays the California Lottery claimed one of three winning tickets Sunday to share a world record $60.8-million prize by picking all six numbers in the latest Lotto 6/49 game.

"Nothing like this has ever happened before--it's pinch-me time," said a subdued Ron Smith, 45, an oil company production supervisor, as he sat in his living room after working a full day as usual on Sunday.

"We checked and rechecked and rechecked the numbers, and called friends . . . to check their numbers to see if ours were correct," Smith said. His wife, Linda, 41, "even checked again in the newspaper (Sunday) morning."

Smith and lucky winners in Fallbrook and Sacramento each picked all six Lotto numbers and will split the $60.8 million. Each of the winning tickets is worth about $20,296,175, to be paid out in annual installments over the next 20 years. That's about $810,000 a year after taxes, lottery officials said Sunday.

A second winning ticket was believed held by 14 hospital workers from Fallbrook in northern San Diego County who, along with a friend, bought 600 of the $1 tickets and agreed to split whatever winnings came their way.

The third winning ticket was purchased by an unknown customer at a Sacramento liquor shop. Lottery officials expect to formally identify all of the winners by today.

Sunday evening, Ron and Linda Smith played host to a few relatives and friends at their modest Westminster home as they pondered their future.

"Everybody seems happy for us," Ron Smith said.

The family has not decided exactly how to spend its new millions, but Ron Smith said he may invest in a golf course or a bowling alley because he enjoys those sports.

"My grandmother has just been admitted to a nursing home, so I'll be able to take care of her," Linda Smith said.

"She won't have to go on state aid," Ron Smith added.

Then there's their daughter, Tammy, a 17-year-old senior at Westminster High School, who "wants a car for graduation," Ron Smith said.

"Christmas!" Tammy corrected him with a shout and a poke.

Tammy, a straight-A student, now also will be able to attend the college of her choice, her father said.

"Probably San Bernardino State," Tammy said.

"U-S-C!" suggested someone in a loud voice from the family's crowded kitchen.

The Smiths have lived in the same well-kept house for 20 years, ever since their elder child, Michael, was only a few months old.

On Sunday afternoon, Michael, now 21, picked up the required Lotto claim form at the 7-11 store around the corner, where his father bought five "Quick Pick" tickets, whose numbers were selected by computer, Saturday evening.

"I was proposed to when I went to pick up the (claim) slip," Michael said Sunday.

His would-be fiancee was a complete stranger, he said, adding: "I declined."

Ron Smith, who said he has missed only one day of work in 23 years, reported for work at a Brea oil field as usual Sunday morning.

"I think I'll work another 2 or 3 weeks," he said. "I told them I'm not going to leave them in the lurch."

Although the Smiths occasionally go to Las Vegas and enjoy gambling, Ron Smith said, he is very conservative in such matters. He and his wife have bought Lotto 6/49 tickets only four or five times.

But the couple seem to have no shortage of luck. The first time they played the lottery, Linda Smith bought a scratch-off card on her son's 19th birthday and won $500.

Will all the money and attention change them?

"I hope not," Ron Smith said. "The 'can we afford it'--it will change that."

"It's kind of been mind-boggling," said Linda Smith above the din in their home Sunday evening. "We're just going to take it day by day. That's all we can do."

Disappointment was almost palpable Sunday for many among the millions of other players whose dreams of instant fortune fell short. Some had bought hundreds of dollars in lottery tickets, hoping to buck 14-million-to-1 odds and realize the richest jackpot in history.

An estimated seven of every 10 adults in California bought at least one ticket for Saturday's Lotto 6/49 leaving even lottery officials astonished by the frenzied interest in their most recent game.

"It's staggering, it's unbelievable," said lottery spokesman Bob Taylor in Sacramento. "With this kind of fever, there is a likelihood that we'll have (jackpots) like this twice a year."

Twenty-nine ticket-holders who correctly picked five out of the six numbers plus the bonus number each will receive $261,977 as a result of Saturday's lottery.

There were 1,046 ticket-holders who picked five numbers right; each will receive $3,742.

There were 64,087 people who got four numbers right; each will receive $55.

About 1.3 million people picked three numbers right; each will receive $5.

The winning numbers were 5, 20, 26, 28, 32 and 39, with 3 being the bonus number.

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