An 83-year-old Anaheim grandmother, who said she rarely plays the California Lottery and doesn't normally consider herself a lucky person, was the winner of $5.2 million in this year's Reader's Digest sweepstakes, magazine officials announced Friday.
Evelyn McKenna said she hardly noticed the prize when it came to her house in a bulky package about two weeks ago.
"I was up and puttering around the house when a deliveryman knocked on the door," McKenna, who will turn 84 next month, said Friday. "I just put it aside and had my breakfast."
A few hours later, McKenna said she decided to give the odd-looking letter the once over. And once she read that she was the Reader's Digest $5.2-million winner, she said she just knew it was true.
"I didn't want to be negative about it, so I believed it was true," said the widow in a telephone interview from Reader's Digest headquarters in Pleasantville, N.Y.
McKenna, a 20-year resident of Anaheim who said she sometimes teaches courses in metaphysics for her church and other social groups, was flown first-class to New York City on Thursday night with her son, who lives in Utah, said Craig Lowder, public relations director for Reader's Digest. Lowder said the two are spending an all-expenses-paid weekend in New York, including a Broadway show and rooms at the plush Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
"They treat me as if I'm the Queen of England--no, the Queen of Sheba," McKenna said. "It's all so upbeat, it's positive, it's loving."
Lowder said McKenna beat odds of 1-in-150 million.
The winner said her only plans for her new fortune are to share it with her children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. When she had heart surgery about 18 months ago, McKenna said her children were her main support.
"I have a small home and I'm very comfortable there," she said. "I want to share whatever I have with them."
McKenna has received her first of 30 annual installments for $167,000, plus a $120,000 early-entry bonus check from George V. Grune, chairman and chief executive officer for Reader's Digest, Lowder said.
McKenna said she has played the magazine's sweepstakes for "a lot of years," but rarely plays other contests--such as the California Lottery--and doesn't think of herself as a lucky person.
She also said the prospect of a new life with a six-figure income worries her. And if the changed lives of past Reader's Digest winners are any indication, her hunch might be well-founded.
"You get goofy people calling you," said Ira Vernon Pfile, 75, last year's $5-million winner.
In an interview from his home in Carleroi, Pa., Friday, Pfile said he and his wife were answering about 50 calls a month from people with investment schemes or looking for donations. "By now it's tapered off, but we do get a lot of mail still from cuckoos," he said.
But McKenna seems ready to trade a little immediate privacy for her new-found millions. "I'm thinking this is all a wonderful opportunity," she said. "It's like a beautiful celebration."