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 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, but Missouri 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.
Castanet polled this large jackpot lotto question:
November 24, 2012 - 691 votes
Do you buy more tickets on a larger lotto jackpot?
No - i buy the same amount: 269
I only buy on large jackpots: 98
I never buy lotto tickets: 78