May 19, 2004, 8:13 am
Pure serendipity - a detour around some bridge work and a spur-of-the-moment decision to buy tickets early for the May 8 Powerball drawing - have made Steven and Kristine White multimillionaires.
The township couple bought the only winning ticket for the largest jackpot in the Pennsylvania Lottery's 32-year history - a one-time payment of $110,230,721, minus 25 percent in federal tax withholdings.
Steven White, a vice president of a small New Jersey meat company, bought the ticket May 5 in Upper Makefield, Pa., at a Cumberland Farms convenience store, not far from the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware River in 1776.
The couple said they buy Powerball tickets infrequently and only when the jackpots get big.
New Jersey doesn't participate in the Powerball lottery, and Steven White said the couple normally crosses the Delaware River into New Hope, Pa., but took an alternate route because of bridge work there.
"That (Lambertville) bridge has been under construction so, out of the blue, we said, `Let's go over (the) Washington Crossing (bridge),' " he said, "and the Cumberland Farms was the first place we saw" where Powerball tickets were on sale.
Steven White, 40, originally planned to buy tickets only for the drawing on May 5 - a Wednesday - but was inspired to expand his bet when the customer in front of him bought $3 in tickets for both the May 5 and the May 8 drawings.
"I said, `What a great idea. I will too.' Otherwise I would not have bought the ticket for Saturday night. I wouldn't even have thought of it," he said.
He played no favorite numbers, letting the ticket machine pick the numbers instead.
The Whites, whose two teenage children attend Montgomery High School, didn't immediately think of checking if they won that Saturday night's drawing. They spent the next day - Mother's Day - at the shore with the ticket stub stuck in their car's visor.
They didn't realize their good fortune until the following day after Kristine White, a geriatric nurse, learned from a co-worker that the winning ticket had been bought at a Cumberland Farms store in Bucks County. By that night, the giddy truth was beginning to sink in.
"The first night, we were up all night. We didn't sleep a minute. I checked the ticket probably about, oh, 400 times," Steven White recalled.
"We really don't know what to say at this point," Kristine White said yesterday. "We're just a little overwhelmed by everything."
During a news conference with the Whites in Harrisburg, Pa., people chuckled as one reporter recalled doing his best to be in the couple's shoes.
"My wife and I (played) in the same lottery and won $16," the reporter said.
The Whites said they plan to use much of their newfound wealth, which totals almost $83 million once Uncle Sam takes his share, to help needy people. Steven White said he plans to quit his job and spend time volunteering at local hospitals.
"We have always wanted to donate our time at the local hospitals for the elderly and children," he said.
"We do know that there is a person in our hometown who is very, very ill and we would like to help out as many people as we can," he said without disclosing the person's identity.
Kristine White, 39, acknowledged that she will no longer need her income but said she would not want to quit working entirely.
"I've been a nurse most of my adult life, and I can't imagine not doing that," she said, adding that she'll be donating her salary to charity.
At least some of the Whites' neighbors on the two-lane country road in the Skillman section of Montgomery knew of the couple's jackpot success prior to yesterday's official announcement.
One couple, who live next door to the Whites and asked not to be identified, have one wish - and it isn't what you might imagine. They just hope the Whites don't pack up and leave.
"They're the nicest people you'd want to meet. They're great neighbors. They deserve it," one neighbor said. "You can't ask for better neighbors."
"They're a lovely family," his wife said. "They're a very loving, close family."
The store that sold the winning ticket won a $400,000 bonus. Cumberland Farms said it would share the reward with 10 store employees and donate $80,000 to two charities, according to state officials.
Secretary of Revenue Gregory C. Fajt and Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Edward Mahlman joined the couple at a news conference at the Pennsylvania State Capitol.
The winning numbers were 3-9-17-37-43, and the Powerball was 39.
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