The final winners from last month’s historically large $656million MegaMillions lottery draw have finally stepped forward in Illinois. Irish Americans Merle and Patricia Butler, a retired couple from Red Bud, Illinois, confirmed yesterday, 19 days after the drawing, that they were one of the select few lucky winners.
The Associated Press reports on the secret that the Butlers didn’t mind keeping quiet for so long. "I figured the quieter I keep it, the better we are,’ said Merle Butler during their press conference.
Coming forward publicly is mandated by the Illinois Lottery, partly to prove that the payouts occur. The winners from Kansas and Maryland were able to remain anonymous and have done so.
Prior to the big reveal, when people asked if Merle had indeed won the jackpot, Merle said he “answered most of the time truthfully and said, 'Yes, I did (win).' Most of the time, people didn't catch it.”
After realizing they had won the jackpot, the Butlers chose to only tell fewer than five people, all of whom are close family or friends. When Merle told his wife that he believed they won the jackpot, "She giggled for about four hours, I think,” said Merle.
The next morning, Merle went directly to the bank to place the winning ticket in a lockbox for safe keeping.
"I guess you came to put your ticket away," said the bank attendant jokingly.
“Yeah, I won this thing,” Butler said at the time. "I laughed it off."
Fellow citizens of Red Bud, Illinois were thrilled to see that it was a local who claimed the prize, rather than someone who was passing through town. Merle Butler had purchased his winning ticket from his local MotoMart, a small convenience store.
Locals gathered and cheered at the Butler’s first appearance as jackpot winners. "They deserve it," said Brenda Holcomb, a retired bartender from Red Bud. "Of course, it would be better if I had it. I'd have a Miller Lite truck parked outside here right now."
Mayor Tim Lowry of Red Bud is equally excited for the notoriety that Red Bud is gaining from the win. "Everyone now knows who we are. We used to be a joke on a T-shirt saying, 'Where the Hell is Red Bud?'"
The couple, who have grandchildren, are only attempting to devise a plan of investment for the $111 million (after taxes) lump sum they received, while perhaps planning a vacation in the future. The newly minted millionaires plan to stay in their hometown of Red Bud, calling it a “comfortable, family-oriented community."