Party of four in Paxton
PAXTON — For several weeks, the chatter throughout the Paxton community persisted: "Who won the $1 million in Powerball? Was it you?"
And for several weeks, Jim Carley, Martha Gentes, Diana Hale and John Overstreet kept quiet.
"Don't know anything about it," they'd say.
"My husband and one son were the only ones I told," Hale said. "I didn't tell anybody else until" Thursday.
The four longtime friends — all current or former employees of the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district — now are widely known around the Ford County seat as "The Lucky PBL 4," winners of a $1 million prize through the Illinois Lottery's Nov. 23 Powerball drawing.
Lottery spokesman Mike Lang presented the group Thursday with four oversized ceremonial checks — for $250,000 each — to commemorate the win. Lang said the $1 million prize will be paid, likely within the next week, in a one-time payment of $700,000 — $175,000 to each — after required state and federal withholdings of 5 and 25 percent, respectively, are deducted.
The four have been playing the lottery as a group for about four years. They had been buying their group tickets at convenience stores until last summer, when Overstreet bought a three-month Powerball subscription on the lottery's website for the group, which he renewed in October.
A month later, he bought a Quick Pick ticket for the group that matched the first five numbers — 5-12-43-52-55, Powerball 10 — in the Nov. 23 drawing.
But the winning numbers were not the ones Overstreet originally had: "When you go online, you can pick your numbers or do a Quick Pick like you'd do at the Village Pantry or something like that. I did the Quick Pick, and the first time I did it, I didn't like the numbers. So I reset it to get the number 12 in there, and when 12 popped up, that's the numbers we stuck with."
The significance of No. 12?
"The 12th is the day that my wife and I got married about 36 years ago," he said.
3 questions for the winners
Q: How will the $175,000 payoff change your life?
John Overstreet: "I think it's just going to make things a lot easier. And I'm only about 31/2 years away from retirement, too, so it will make that a lot better."
Jim Carley: "Same here. Not as much pressure every month when the bills come. I'll pay off some debt. And I'm already retired from teaching, so I'm living the life of luxury already."
Diana Hale: "Just being the same old me. Nothing will change."
Martha Gentes: "Nothing will change, just probably more of a smile. I'll live life a little easier."
Q: What's the first purchase you're going to make when your check arrives?
Overstreet: "We've had a son in college since 2001, so our major plan is to pay off a lot of that college student/parent loans over the years."
Carley: "I haven't really thought about it. Wait until I get the money, I guess. I've got a couple little kids, so I'll probably put some money for college for them. That'll probably be first priority."
Hale: "I'm like Jim; I haven't thought about it too much either. With my son (Clayton) being busy with cancer that we've been dealing with with him, it just hasn't hit. But probably we'll put it in for retirement."
Gentes: "That's what I'm doing, for retirement. Probably about three years (I'll retire), so hopefully that will work."
Q: Do you wish you'd gone at it alone instead of splitting the prize four ways?
Overstreet: "No. We've been doing this for several years now. I think we'll keep doing it. Obviously, winning the big prize would have been even better, but I think we're very, very happy with what we've won."
Carley: "I feel the same way. It's nice that all four of us got to enjoy this. It makes it a little more special, I think."
Hale: "I fully agree. We've always been together, one way or another, with the school, and just like one big family."
Gentes: "Yeah, it's been great. And John's been really great helping us out on letting us know for sure how to proceed with stuff. He's just very helpful, a very nice guy to be around."