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She Knew She’d Win It Big : Persistent Lotto Player Beats the Odds to Win $5.5 Million

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Her son and husband said she would never win. But once a week for the past four years, Lois Shulman played the California Lottery anyway.

And on Saturday, using a six-digit number created from family birthdays and her wedding anniversary, the 72-year-old lingerie clerk hit the jackpot, winning $5.52 million.

After a whirlwind trip to the pharmacy where she bought the ticket, then a press conference at lottery headquarters in Anaheim, Shulman and her 77-year-old husband Mort returned to their modest mobile home late Monday in a state of shock.

“It’s hard to believe,” Shulman said. “I keep telling my husband to pinch me!”

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Still, she said, she and Mort are already laying plans to buy a new house, buy a second house for their 41-year-old son, fly to Europe on the Concorde and maybe even buy a new car. Then again, maybe not.

“We’re not splurging people,” Shulman said. “I really don’t have my mind set like a millionaire.”

For now, the Shulmans are waiting to cash that first lottery check before they go on any spending sprees--or even treat themselves to a glass of champagne.

To be sure, Shulman’s husband quit his menswear sales job Sunday, a few hours after they learned by radio that her number had won. But for now, she has kept her sales job--although perhaps that’s a technicality. “I told them I’d be off for a couple of weeks to decide--and then I probably won’t be working there,” she laughed.

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She won on odds of 23 million to one, said lottery officials, who verified “an apparent win.” Her ticket will take six to eight weeks to process, but when all the paperwork is done, Sacramento lottery officials will cut a check that, after taxes, will amount to $220,800. She will get that amount each year for the next 20 years, lottery district sales supervisor Charles Haywood said.

Shulman’s win is one of the larger payouts to Orange County residents since the lottery began in 1985. The largest went to Ronald Smith, an oil field supervisor from Westminster who in October, 1988, won $20.66 million playing Lotto.

In the years Shulman has been playing Lotto, she has ignored complaints from her husband and son that she was just wasting her money.

“I always said I would win the lottery,” she said matter-of-factly. And, to be sure, over the years she had--$46 here, $78 there--but nothing big before now.

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Saturday was just another day when the Shulmans visited the Villa Park Pharmacy for Lotto tickets. As usual, she spent $9 on three tickets--two containing a string of numbers selected by a lottery computer but the third with her special lucky number: 3-6-9-11-42-48.

“3-9 is my birthday; 6-11 is Mort’s birthday; 42 is 42 years of being married and 48 is the year we were married in,” Shulman explained. Actually, the couple marked 43 years of marriage in August, but when she bought the ticket Saturday, she forgot to make the change. And she’s glad she didn’t. “I wouldn’t have won it if I had.”

Shulman was preparing for bed at 1:30 a.m. Sunday when she learned her number had won. “I went to brush my teeth and then I head the lady (on the radio) telling the numbers. I grabbed a pen and shouted, ‘Those are my numbers!’ ” she recounted. “I came out to the front room shaking. I said, ‘Mort, I won the big Lotto.’ ”

Pragmatic as ever, Mort Shulman didn’t believe her. “He said, ‘How many numbers are you off?’ ” But Lois Shulman continued shouting, “I won! I won!”

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The couple barely slept all night. Terrified they would lose their winning ticket, they hid it for the remainder of the weekend. And early Monday, they met a lottery official at the pharmacy, verified that their ticket had won, then handed it over.

“They were on Cloud 9,” said the pharmacy’s Lotto retailer, Leo Brodsky.

As the couple left for their press conference, they were beginning to realize that their lives had just changed. “When they left, she was saying she needed to get her car radiator fixed,” Brodsky said. “And (her husband) turned to her and said, ‘Radiator fixed? We’ll just buy a new car!’ ”


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