May 23, 2012, 10:02 am
Includes video report
Playing Powerball tonight? You may want to hear what a Phoenix woman has to say — she won Arizona's biggest Powerball jackpot nearly 20 years ago.
On March 4th, 1995, part time secretary Shirley Pence stopped by a 7/11 store near 24th Avenue and Greenway in Phoenix to buy a Powerball quick pick ticket. Turned out she had a winner.
"Oh we just grabbed each other and held each other," she said. "And I cried and shook."
Don, a self employed house painter, and his wife Shirley, lived a modest life in North Phoenix 17 years ago.
Their daughter and grandson were at the news conference to celebrate.
The Powerball lottery hit Arizona in 1994 and the Pence's hit the Powerball a year later.
The Pence's little ticket led to a big check that changed their lives to the tune of $102 Million.
Both in their mid 50's, the Pence's immediately retired, and were stunned at what happened following this news conference in Phoenix.
Shirley Pence said, "We'd wake up in the morning and we'd have gifts on the front porch, flowers, alarm clocks, just all kinds of things. It just got ridiculous. So we got out of town for a while."
Shirley talked to us from the couple's home in Florida. They spend half their time in Arizona in their home North of the valley.
Looking back 17 years to the blur of winning Powerball, Pence says it was a blessing but for a while she says it was also depressing.
"A lot of people wanted money," she said. "We had one situation where they threatened to kidnap our grandson and our dog. I mean it was like okay people give me a break, this is ridiculous."
There was another surprise for the couple, when they discovered the only thing they had in common with rich people was their bank accounts. Shirley said she found the rich to be kind of annoying. She said, "A lot of them are just, they take everything for granted. They don't say thank-you they don't clean up after themselves. It just irritates me."
Every once in a while Shirley said she'll buy a lottery ticket just for the heck of it. But when we asked her why most big jackpot winners seem to come from Southern states or states in the Midwest, she said, "I don't know." Adding, "If there are more people in the states that have won, that's the only thing I can think of. It's just more people who buy tickets."
So, we took our question to the source, the Arizona Lottery. And we asked, why does it seem that Arizonans don't hit huge lottery jackpots?
Karen Bach said it's not true, that Arizona has had 10 big winners. She said, "Those jackpots ranged in prize value from just over $5 million to $102 million."
But the number of jackpot winners doing news conferences, and getting the big check for all to see, has dwindled. Many jackpot winners these days want to remain anonymous.
Though a teacher from Fort Mohave did step up to publicly claim her $95 million jackpot in December 2010.
Bach says Powerball winners in Arizona have collected over half a billion dollars in winnings from $10,000 on up since 1994. She says, "It's so much more than just the jackpot because there's other people winning $10,000, $100,000 or $1 million so it's not just all about the jackpot. There's so much more money to be spread around."
Don and Shirley Pence were in their 50's when they hit the big Powerball jackpot. They chose the annuity, taking $3.5 million dollars every year for 20 years.
In three years the lottery checks will stop coming, but the Pence's are set financially. They've also given generously to charity, including animal causes in Yavapai County, and to Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Now they are counting their blessings in Florida and Arizona. "We got the best of both worlds," Shirley said. "We are really blessed."
VIDEO: Watch the news report
Thanks to lottoball for the tip.
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