Struck by Luck
by Darcey Dodd
It's quite a week that starts with 5,000 lucky dollars and ends with $100,000. Of course for some people, like $3 million winner Diane Herbert, that's a drop in the bucket. Now the Poteets have leapfrogged over her with their brand-new win of $31.5 million...
William Dodd, left, waits to see if he will win $100,000 in the Lottery's Triple Play drawing.
It's an ordinary summer afternoon in 1998 at the Dodd residence in Columbia. William, 77, is napping on the couch. His 75-year-old wife, Virginia, is tuned into her favorite soap opera, General Hospital. This is a day like any other for the retired couple of 58 years. Then the phone rings.
Eyes still glued to Luke and Laura, Virginia makes her way across the modest living room to the telephone.
"Hello," she says with a bit of a Southern accent.
Next there is silence. "What do you mean?" she asks the caller, obviously confused.
"Who is it, Ginny?" grumbles her groggy husband.
"Billy, We've won $5,000 from the Maryland Lottery!"
That's not all. They soon learn they've been entered into a drawing, called the Maryland State Lottery and Home Team Sports Triple Play Contest, with three others for a chance at $100,000. The televised drawing will take place at an upcoming Orioles' game.
"Weee!" exclaims the grandmother of six and great- grandmother of seven. Oh, what a feeling!
Figuring the Odds
What are the odds of a second big win? One would suspect not good.
Since Triple Play was introduced to Marylanders only in April of last year, there's no way to know what the chances of that game are yet.
But Lotto, Maryland's Classic Jackpot Game, has been around 16 years. During that time, 44 players in Anne Arundel county have become millionaires. Calvert County has a mere 10 winners to date. "Those numbers coincide with population," says Patrick Morton, public relations specialist for the Maryland State Lottery.
Population or not, your chances at hitting the Lotto are slightly less than one in seven million.
That didn't stop the Dodds from playing all these years. "We've been playing every week ever since it started," confirms Ginny.
The first Maryland State Lottery ticket was sold for fifty cents on May 15, 1973. Since then, $7.8 billion has been paid out in prizes, $771.5 million to local businesses who are agents and $6.1 billion to a general fund that is used for building schools, paving roads and paying teachers, police officers and doctors, to name a few uses.
According to Morton that means 96 cents of each dollar spent on tickets is returned to the community. "There aren't too many billion-dollar agencies that can say that," he says proudly.
Waiting for a Break
The Dodds would rather not think of how much they've spent trying to win.
The two grew up in King George, Virginia, a sleepy middle-class town. They married shortly after graduating high school, then settled in Maryland in 1958. For a decade, Billy managed apartment complexes on the outer rim of the Beltway, so he and Ginny moved every time a new complex was built. They moved to their current home in Columbia in 1969, and he opened a small heating and air-conditioning business. She worked for the Department of Agriculture. Money was not exactly scarce, but until they retired in the 1980s, they always had to work for what they got.
Now they're going to a ball game, where they will soon find out if their luck has stepped up.
When the morning of the big day finally arrives, Ginny wakes up extra early to fix the usual ham, biscuit, rice and gravy breakfast they've eaten every weekend since they were married. Somehow, it tastes even better this fine day.
Driving into the city is not an easy task for the couple, so they've arranged to have their son and daughter-in-law - plus their granddaughters with their husband and fiancé and great-grandson - drive them from Columbia to Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Immediately Billy and Ginny are whisked away by lottery officials. The contestants will sit by themselves in a reserved area. Tension is mounting for the couple and their family.
Finally, it's time!
Because Billy has trouble getting around, his son Doug leads him way, way up to the Home Team Sports booth. Inside the box are television cameras, several formal-looking fellows and the other two hopeful winners. They are the enemies.
A sharply dressed young man pulls out a brand-new deck of cards, takes the numbers one, two and three out and instructs each contestant to pick one. "They put three balls with each person's number in that thing they use for the Pick 3 game," says Billy.
His son is there behind him. The rest of his family is anxiously waiting down below.
Does he win?
Does he know it right away?
No. His hearing is not so good, so Doug has to alert him that he's won.
Above, he and wife Virginia show off the Cadillac Deville they bought with their winnings.
Later, the older Dodd would explain his first reaction like this. "I was dumbfounded. I was looking at Doug like he'd gone crazy!" Morton sees this reaction all the time. "Usually they're always very excited and very nervous," he says.
But the latest and largest ever Maryland Big Game winners were different from the norm. It was weeks - June 15, 1999 - before George and Cecelia Poteet of Millersville strolled into Lottery Headquarters to claim their $31.5 million.
"Reality had already [had time to] sink in for them," says Morton of the couple who safeguarded their winning ticket until their sons' school year ended.
Many of us dream of the first thing we would do if we ever won big. The Poteets told lottery officials they are going to Disney World.
Others might book a cruise around the world, buy a new house or eat an expensive meal at the most elegant restaurant in town. Billy and Ginny celebrated the next morning with breakfast at Friendly's Restaurant.
Since then, they've bought a shiny 1998, pea-green Cadillac Deville and remodeled their kitchen. Besides that, the Dodds say they feel no different. "We've got some money in the bank. That's about it," says Ginny.
One year later, Billy and Ginny think back to those exciting moments when their luck changed for the better.
"I don't know what happened," says Ginny. "We haven't been lucky our whole lives. This has been an exceptional year."
Billy, a man of few words, adds, "I think Goldstein signed the check and then died."
Three Million and Still Dancing
How many millions would it take to drastically change your lifestyle?
For Diane Herbert, one of Calvert County's only 10 winners, three was not enough. "I live in the same house, and I don't have any fur coats," she says nearly five years after her and her significant other cashed in their winning Lotto ticket.
More important to Herbert than money is her love for dance. She's been instructing tap, jazz, ballet, gymnastics and musical theater in her Dunkirk home studio and throughout the county for 25 years. "I love what I do," she says.
Born in Washington, D.C., Herbert was inspired by her mother, a pro performer. She began teaching Diane the art shortly after her first birthday. Herbert started teaching at the age of 16. She eventually settled in Dunkirk, where she continues teaching in her home-studio and in Lothian at Saint James Episcopal Church.
In 1995, her hard work - and a little luck - paid off when she discovered she'd just hit it big.
"I was in shock," she says. "I'm the type that would put my head out of the car window and scream," says Herbert, describing the moment she found out she'd won three million bucks. Instead, she says, "Something came over me like we can't tell anyone."
Herbert spent the next year having fun. That did not include purchasing a personal jet or yacht of her choice. She did, however, take a cruise. "That Christmas we got the kids whatever they wanted," says the mother of three and grandmother of six.
The following year she decided to invest her money. "If you don't take this and use it wisely, you'll never be a millionaire," she says of the $48,000 she will receive annually for 20 years.
Now 56, she celebrates her 40th year of molding students of all ages. She's taken her students far and wide to train with well-known Broadway performers and choreographers. Her students have also given shows at familiar places like Disney World, Adventure World and Kings Dominion and on television.
Has winning the lottery changed her life?
"No. I always jokingly say I won because I always spent money like I'd won before," she answers. But, she says in a more serious tone, "I had nothing to retire on and I thank God every day that I get this check once a year."
| Issue 25 |
Volume VII Number 25
June 24-30, 1999
New Bay Times
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