Created on Thursday, 19 December 2013 Written by JOHNNY CLARK, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — On her way to work, Ira Curry heard on the radio that one of the winning lottery ticket numbers was her family's lucky No. 7. She called home, her daughter checked the ticket and in an instant, Curry was a multi-millionaire.
Curry came forward Wednesday to collect half of the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot, the second largest in U.S. history. She'll take the lump sum of about $120 million after taxes, which will be given to her in about a week or two. The other winning ticket was sold in San Jose, Calif. The winner there has one year to come forward.
Curry, her husband and other family members came to the lottery headquarters in Atlanta to claim the prize, surprising officials who thought the winner may take some time to get their affairs in order. Alford said Curry bought just one ticket and chose the numbers based on relatives' birthdays and the lucky 7.
"She said she was just in a state of disbelief," Georgia Lottery chief executive Debbie Alford said.
It wasn't clear whether she ever made it to work Wednesday. On Thursday, Aspen Insurance said in an emailed statement that Curry is still an employee there, working as a vice president in the property department at the Atlanta office.
"Ira is a valued long-term employee with Aspen, and the entire Aspen team is thrilled for her and her family," Mario Vitale, chief executive officer, said in the statement. "It could not have happened to a nicer person, and we are excited for her good fortune."
Curry, of Stone Mountain, lives in a neighborhood of brick and stucco houses with manicured lawns about 10 miles east of Atlanta. Her home is two stories with a two-car garage and a basketball goal in the driveway.
Much about her remains unknown. A Facebook page that appeared to be hers was taken down soon after her name was announced, and lottery officials would not give out her age or other information.
She didn't attend the news conference, and someone who answered her home phone Wednesday said the family didn't want any publicity and hung up. A man who answered the door said the same thing.
On Thursday, it didn't appear anyone was home, though several visitors and journalists were trying to reach Curry and her family. Some left packages, and other deliveries were made.
Ron White pulled up to the house in his BMW. He identified himself as a wealth manager but did not give his employer, and left an envelope at Curry's door. He said there on the business of financial advice.
"It's a big deal, a huge deal," he said of the lottery win and potential business. "Well, you want to try to get ahead of the crowd."
On Wednesday, neighbor Kaliah Ladler, 18, called the Curry family humble.
"Some people get big-headed, but I don't think they'll get big-headed. They will probably use it for good," she said.
Francis Boudreaux, who lives across the street from the Currys, said he was happy for the family but sad because they will probably move.
"I think they will start doing a whole lot of traveling," he said.
Curry lives just a few miles from Stone Mountain Park, with an 825-foot-tall mountain that covers about a square mile. It features golf courses, camping, bike and walking trails as well as a carving depicting Confederate heroes of the Civil War, including Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Curry purchased the ticket at the Gateway Newsstand in the Alliance Center building in Buckhead, a financial center in Atlanta. The office building is home to insurance companies, lawyers, financial services professionals and even the Brazilian Consulate General.
The newsstand is a small, narrow shop with one register. It can hold about 10 people at a time and it is located near the lobby.
Young Soo Lee owns the store with her husband, Young Lee. She grinned as she arrived Wednesday.
"I'm so excited and so happy now," Young Soo Lee said. "I love my store and the customer."
Other than the typical 6 percent commission on store lottery sales, the store doesn't receive any bonus other than recognition.
The California store owner — Thuy Nguyen of Jennifer's Gift Shop in San Jose — will get $1 million, lottery officials there said.
"When people hear jackpot winner was sold here, everybody want to come here," Nguyen said. "They call my shop lucky Buddha."
Nguyen sells a variety of items, including Buddha statues, Vietnamese DVDs, clocks and flip flops. The former hairstylist took over the shop four months ago after emigrating from Vietnam in the early 1990s.
The jackpot started its ascent Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners. Some $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday's drawing.
Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy, Phillip Lucas and Jeff Martin in Atlanta and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.