Missouri Lottery reunion lets millionaires meet up

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | 4:14 p.m. CDT; updated 6:43 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Jim Wilson jokes with children from a St. Louis day care during a reunion of former winners in the Missouri Lottery at Saint Louis Science Center on Tuesday. The reunion brings together two dozen lottery-made millionaires, like Wilson whose father won $254 million in the lottery in 2007.

ST. LOUIS — The two dozen people in matching T-shirts who spent Tuesday morning working on crafts with children at the St. Louis Science Center looked like any other volunteers — except this group has won a combined $360 million in the Missouri Lottery.

Some sported nice jewelry, but nothing too flashy. No designer shoes were on display, just lots of sandals and sneakers.

The Missouri Lottery's "millionaires reunion," which started Monday and continues through Wednesday, is a chance for lottery-made millionaires to meet others who became wealthy in an instant.

For 23 years, the Missouri Lottery has organized the annual event, although the millionaires pay their own way. This year, 24 winners took in a ball game, volunteered with kids at the science center and will hear from a financial adviser.

"The millionaires get a chance to meet and talk with other millionaires," said Missouri Lottery spokeswoman Susan Goedde. "They have a lot of new things that come upon them: investments, maybe they're not working anymore."

The event gives newly minted millionaires an opportunity to pick up advice from those who have had years to adjust to their wealth.

Most states with lotteries offer some initial guidance to large-money winners. They suggest winners talk with professionals, such as lawyers, accountants or financial planners. It's less clear how many have ongoing events like Missouri's millionaires reunion.

Because not every large-money winner attends the reunions — the Missouri Lottery has awarded $1 million or more to 279 people since 1986 — those who do may not be representative of all such winners.

Those taking part Tuesday were largely low-key. They also said they haven't been flooded with requests for help or involved in complex family squabbles over money.

Jim Wilson, 62, recounted how his father won $254 million in 2007 and shared it with his wife and three children. His dad, after realizing he had won the lottery, asked the children to contribute $1 each toward the ticket, before he told them it was already a winner.

"We continue to live as we always have," the younger Wilson said. "You still have the same problems as before. You just don't have to worry financially."

He and his wife, Mary, went to Guatemala earlier this year, where they worked with a charity called Vosh, which provides eye surgery and glasses to those in need. Wilson said they bought a three-bedroom home on a Naples, Fla., golf course.

"It's not outlandish," he said.

Martin King, 69, of Wentzville, said as a laid-off auto detailer, he barely had enough money to buy a lottery ticket when he won $29 million twenty years ago.

Now, he owns a total of five houses in Missouri and Mississippi, where he and his family live.

"I've been to places I never thought I'd be able to go — Hong Kong, Australia," he said.

His wealth allows him smaller pleasures, such as the ability to support the Mississippi softball team that he plays for recreationally, the Enterprise Old Timers.

Jim Lovelace, 69, and his wife, Marilyn, 66, of Farmington, said winning roughly $4 million in 2006 gave them financial peace of mind. Their winnings allowed Marilyn to retire from 43 years in nursing, resulted in money for family trips and helped them provide for their children.

"We're not elaborate people," Marilyn Lovelace said. "We're comfortable and secure."


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