Win $588M? Don't 'go hog wild'
Construction on Route 28 and pure luck conspired to make Leo Phillips a multimillionaire more than a decade ago.
Now a seasoned lottery winner, he has sage advice for the country's next members of the instantly rich club from this week's record $588 million Powerball jackpot.
“You have to enjoy the moment and then come back to reality,” said Phillips, 50, of Hampton, who won $8 million in 2000. “If you won $500 million, you can do a lot of different things. But you can't go hog wild because you see all of the stories about winners going broke and other stuff.”
Winning tickets matching Wednesday's jackpot numbers were sold in Arizona and Missouri.
Missouri Lottery officials on Thursday verified one of two tickets that matched all six numbers. That ticket was purchased at a gas station in Dearborn, just off Interstate 29, the highway linking Kansas City to the Canadian border.
Dozens of other tickets produced secondary winners of $1 million or more — including three in Pennsylvania.
Players bought million-dollar tickets at stores in Butler, Blair and Montgomery counties. The stores get a $5,000 bonus.
Stephanie Rossey, a manager at Planet Mart Food Stores in Cabot, which sold a $1 million ticket, excitedly shouted at customers. “Did you check your ticket?” she asked everyone who entered the store on Route 356. “We had a winner.”
By Thursday afternoon, the winner's identity remained unknown. “I hope it's one of our regulars, someone who comes in all the time,” Rossey said. “My blood pressure has been through the roof all day.”
Phillips said he was an occasional lottery player before hitting the winning combination for the Pennsylvania Super 6 Lotto. Traffic congestion along Route 28 forced him to take back roads home after a hectic day working as a respiratory therapist.
A co-worker suggested he play three numbers, so he stopped at a BP gas station on Fox Chapel Road. He impulsively spent $5 on the Super 6 and let the computer pick his numbers.
They won him $8 million, though Phillips didn't know until the next morning when he checked the newspaper.
He double-checked and had someone else check, too.
In disbelief, he drove to a state lottery office on the South Side. Workers there told him he had to go to the main office in Dauphin County because of the winning amount. They also advised him to sign the ticket.
“I didn't even think about that,” Phillips said. “But that's the first thing you should do.”
State lottery officials urge this week's winners to follow that advice, too.
“We generally encourage claimants of very large jackpots to seek financial and legal counsel, if they desire, before coming forward to make a claim,” said lottery spokesman Gary Miller.
Phillips retired but stays busy as a volunteer firefighter, youth football coach and member of the board for the St. Margaret Foundation and for Thiel College.
He built a house near where he grew up and kept his old telephone number — a rarity as demonstrated by more than a dozen disconnected numbers the Tribune-Review reached trying to contact lottery winners across the country.
If he ever won, lottery expert and University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth professor Clyde Barrow said he first would call his lawyer.
“And then I would go into hiding, literally,” he said.
Phillips said he understands the desire to disappear.
He knew through a mutual friend one of the PNC workers who shared a nearly $15 million Powerball jackpot in 2005. He said he ran into her from time to time but hasn't seen her in years.
Phillips said she once told him, “I don't know how you do this. People are driving me nuts.”
Requests still arrive in Phillips' mailbox from time to time, he said. He considers his win a blessing because it allowed him to help family members and charities. He established scholarship funds at Carlow and Thiel colleges, his alma maters.
He watched news reports as the recent Powerball jackpot grew, but didn't buy a ticket for the drawing.
“I'm all right,” Phillips said. “I don't want to seem like I'm getting greedy.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.