Cleaning woman wins big


Cleaning woman wins big

By MARTIN FINUCANE Associated Press

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Braintree, Mass. — Geraldine Williams, a 67-year-old cleaning woman, can afford to hire her own help now — she stepped forward Friday to claim $294 million, the second-largest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

Williams recalled staring at the television, clutching her ticket and muttering, “Oh, God! Oh, God! Let it be! Let it be!” as the winning numbers in the multi-state Mega Millions drawing were announced last week.

She will take her winnings in a lump sum of $117.6 million after taxes — that ought to buy a lot of Ajax and Lemon Pledge — and said she plans to travel and give money to her three children and to charity.

Williams cleaned homes after retiring as a custodian at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where she worked for 15 years. She said she fully intended to keep an appointment to clean someone’s home this week until she was told she had to meet with financial advisers in Boston.

A grandmother of eight who moved to the former mill city of Lowell more than 40 years ago, Williams said she planned to continue living in the area.

“She’s had a rough life, just working hard all her life, and (she’s) so genuine, just as you saw her on TV today, she’s no different than like that at home and she hasn’t been any different all week,” her son Dick Williams said.

Geraldine Williams said she told her children about her good fortune as soon as she knew, but hid it from everyone else, keeping the winning ticket at a bank.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “I don’t like lying, I don’t like sneaking around.”

The largest single-ticket lottery jackpot winner ever in North America was Jack Whitaker of Scott Depot, W.Va., who won a Powerball jackpot of $314.9 million on Christmas Day 2002.

Other states participating in the Mega Millions game are Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Williams recalled going to a yard sale with her longtime companion, Thomas Scanlon, even after they knew she had won the jackpot. “I said, ‘Hey, all that stuff’s for free’ and Tom said, ‘Come on!'” she said.

Paula Peacock, a 39-year-old neighbor, called Williams “a bundle of energy.”

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