When Walter Simpson got into his 1978 Ford pickup early Monday morning at his Simi Valley home, he was an unemployed machinist reaching the end of a financially trying year. He had even skipped the deer hunting season because he couldn’t afford to go.
A few hours later, Simpson became the first $3-million winner in the California Lottery.
Even so, Simpson is keeping his Ford, he said, because of his memories of the days when he rode in it with his wife, Fay Louise, who died of cancer three years ago. In fact, there isn’t much that Simpson, 48, wants to change about his modest life style, although he said he does plan to return to his home state of Indiana and buy his ailing mother a house.
Remembers a Friend
Simpson, who has five children, ages 22 to 28, and five grandchildren, said he intends to share some of his winnings with his best friend, Bob Fargo, an auto mechanic.
“I’m gonna take care of my family and my friend, and that’s about all I plan for it,” said Simpson shortly after he spun the the large multicolored wheel and watched the ball land in the $3-million slot.
In all, lottery officials said they gave away a record amount of money during the taping of the “Big Spin” in Hollywood Monday, with 23 participants winning $11.5 million. That broke a record of $8.7 million on Nov. 4.
Simpson was the only one of 10 people who spun the wheel for the $3-million jackpot in the lottery’s Sky’s the Limit game to win it. There were 13 spinners for the California Jackpot, including three people--an auto worker, a gas station attendant and an engineer--who won that game’s $2-million top prize.
For Doris Barnett, a Los Angeles nurse who participated in Sky’s the Limit, Monday brought disappointment. At first, the ball fell into the $3-million slot, but three seconds after Barnett, 52, had started celebrating with her family on the television studio stage, the ball slipped into the $10,000 slot. The ball must stay in place at least five seconds for a win to count.
Simpson, meanwhile, will receive the first $120,000 of his $3 million within the next 48 hours, according to lottery spokesman Bob Taylor. After that, he will receive 19 installments of $150,000. Thirty-thousand dollars is subtracted from the first check for federal income tax.
Even before winning the lottery, Simpson said, he had planned to return to Martinsville, Ind., a town of about 11,000 southwest of Indianapolis, but he said he “never dreamed” he would be able to care for his mother in the style that is now feasible. He said his 72-year-old mother, who suffers from a respiratory ailment, has been living on Social Security payments.
“I never thought of being rich,” Simpson said.