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‘It’s a Strange Feeling, but I’ll Get Used to It,’ Says Lottery Winner

Times Staff Writer

Wednesday at dinner Tom Yoki was an unassuming, friendly guy, according to his ex-boss of one day.

An hour later, Yoki was an unassuming, friendly guy with $6.04 million coming to him.

Meet San Diego’s newest lottery millionaire. “It’s a strange feeling. It makes me nervous--but I’ll get used to it,” Yoki, a 44-year-old, former late-shift proofreader at a typesetting company, said in an interview Thursday.

“I bought 11 tickets on my way to work, at 6:30, at the liquor store next to the Alpha Beta across from work. They had the drawing at 8, and around 8:15 or 8:30 I went to the Alpha Beta to buy my dinner. I stopped by the liquor store to get the printout of the winning numbers, and I stuffed it in my pocket without looking at it.

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‘It All Just Fell Into Place’

“I ate dinner, went back to my desk, and it all just fell into place. I kept staring at it,” Yoki, a bachelor, said.

Originally from Southfield, Mich., Yoki has lived in San Diego for six years, most recently with two roommates in a downtown apartment. And, before Wednesday’s dinner, he had worked for Thompson Type Inc.

“He’s a real nice guy. He lives kind of a quiet life. He just walked out after dinner, and he’s in hiding,” said company owner John Pierce.

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“A lot of times, I really anticipate winning,” the lottery winner said. “This time I didn’t. I was caught totally by surprise,” said Yoki, who first posed as one of his roommates to dodge a reporter. He said he has been buying the $1 tickets almost every week for more than a year.

Numbers Just Keep Matching

“I went down the numbers on my tickets, checking them with the printout. A couple (of the tickets) matched the first two, and then I got three. I said, ‘Oh, wow, I won $5.’ The next one, I said ‘Uh-oh. This just isn’t happening.’

“When I got them all, I screamed, and a woman from across the hall came running to see what was wrong. I had co-workers check the numbers to see if I was hallucinating,” Yoki said.

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He called his mother in Michigan: She was happy about it.

He told his roommates: “They said, ‘Well, we still gotta go to work.’ ”

As for the big winner, who won with the Quick Pick, computer-selected numbers 4, 14, 31, 40, 42 and 47, he’s got big plans--and, as of Thursday, a new $35,000 four-door sedan, which he did not want to identify.

“It’s a conservative car. I thought about a $70,000 Jaguar, but I didn’t get one.” What is now Yoki’s “other car” is a 10-year-old station wagon.

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Yoki said he had to scrounge $500 for a token down payment on the new auto, but added that the salesman was very understanding once he saw the lottery receipt and statement detailing how Yoki will receive, after taxes, $241,600 annually for the next 20 years.

Also on Yoki’s suddenly realistic, and fast-growing, wish list:

A home in the area; a trip with his mother to Finland, where she’s from; a road trip to San Francisco; more education, especially in Spanish and computers; more meals out; some wise investments, and his own business, capitalizing on a months-old idea he feels could drastically change commercial printing.

‘Just Hasn’t Hit Yet’

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“It would be a major thing, a multimillion-dollar project. Eventually, I’ll fit (my roommates) in on this,” Yoki said.

“It just hasn’t hit yet. But I won’t be living at the same level. I don’t think this will really change me, though,” Yoki said. “I’m having a hard time fathoming it.”

Yoki is the 119th jackpot winner since the California lottery began 22 months ago. His take doesn’t make the top 15, a lottery spokeswoman said.

Three other players in Wednesday’s drawing--from Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco--got five numbers right and the bonus number, 36. They each won $515,890, she said.

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Another 198 selected five right and will get $4,027.


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