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NJ Powerball winner wants his old life back

PowerballPowerball: NJ Powerball winner wants his old life back
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'Wild' Willie says the drama is nonstop

"Wild" Willie Seeley of Manahawkin, New Jersey, has one piece of advice for the winner of last week's $400 million Powerball jackpot in South Carolina: Run. "Just disappear," he said, speaking from hard-won experience. "Get lost while you still can."

After Seeley and 15 co-workers from Ocean County's vehicle maintenance garage shared part of an even bigger Powerball jackpot last month, $450 million, the "Ocean's 16" celebrated the win at a press conference where Seeley stole the show with a cascading beard, tinted shades and a battered straw hat. "We are very happy, happy, happy," he said to hoots and hollers from the crowd. "I'm going to continue to watch NASCAR races on Sunday. Maybe I'll be at a log cabin on multiple acres of land."

The next morning, he and his wife, Donna, appeared on NBC's TODAY, where Willie (no one calls him Seeley) pledged to fish, hunt and generally do as he pleases. "I can do what I want," he told Matt Lauer, turning warmly toward his smiling wife. "We can do what we want."

Now, however, that sense of infinite freedom has curdled into regret. In their first interview since being thrust into the national spotlight, Willie and Donna appear less like the "happy, happy, happy" recipients of a blessing than the weary parents of a problem child. "There are days I wish we were back to just getting paid every two weeks," Willie said last Friday from inside his modest, antler-adorned home. "You have to change your whole way of life, but we didn't want to change the way we lived. We liked the way we lived."

Donna goes even further, calling their winnings "the curse." And while they wouldn't go so far as to give the money back, they're more than happy to pass the spotlight to an as-yet-unidentified dupe in the Gamecock state, a man who, according to South Carolina lottery officials, pulled off the road for hotdog buns and bought the winning ticket on a lark. "He doesn't understand," Willie said. "The drama is nonstop."

And it's a drama more Americans may experience as state lotteries expand, setting records for revenue and exciting politicians desperate for cash but loathe to raise taxes. A decade ago, jackpots rarely cracked $100 million, but now, thanks to more expensive ticket prices, new games and added retailers, they routinely soar to three times that princely sum.

In the last eighteen months alone, states have awarded the five biggest lottery prizes of all time, all of them north of a quarter-billion dollars, and those purses are likely to grow still larger as states experiment with allowing people to buy tickets with smartphones and credit cards, the hoped-for tools of perpetual gaming.

"There are a lot of zeros in this money," said Paula Harper Bethea, executive director of the South Carolina Education Lottery, at a press conference announcing her state's winner last week. "It's a life-changing event."

But as Willie's story makes clear, a life-changing ticket is also a complicated windfall. Willie's share of the $450 million pot was divided by two other winning tickets, and further divided by 15 coworkers, all of whom bought a ticket through a pool at the county garage where Willie worked as a warehouse manager. After taxes he had less than $4 million to call his own, which, as he put it, "ain't sh-t in today's economy."

Still, it was enough money for Willie and Donna to leave their jobs, Willie saying sayonara to the county, Donna resigning a dangerous nursing post at a psychiatric hospital.

She and Willie paid cash for new vehicles: a black GMC pick-up for him, a shiny purple Chrysler for her. Their neat one-story house had been battered by Hurricane Sandy, so they put a new roof on it, paid the mortgage off and made the backyard sparkle. Inside they gutted the bathroom, tossing out their old washer and dryer in the process.

Then they helped family, funding a house for one kid, a master's degree for another. Willie's father, a retired artist who gave Willie his country-peacock sense of style, has cancer — so Willie helped fund his second round of chemo, watching as his old man's prognosis improved in the process. "I do good deeds every day," he said, "just like Dale Earnhardt. And just like him I don't like bragging about it."

He also did something big for himself, making one of his press conference pledges come true by buying a cabin on 15 acres of land, about 30 minutes away. Willie plans to move there next month, full-time, a move driven as much by his hunting-and-fishing dreams as by his need to slam the door on a world of hucksters, criminals and professional show runners that opened up the day he won Powerball.

They arrived after his TODAY appearance, a cavalcade of long-lost relatives, sympathetic beggars and what felt like every reality TV producer in the country. "I pulled a .357 magnum on the last fellow who came walking up the driveway," he said. That seemed to work, but the phone won't stop ringing. National Geographic, A&E, Ryan Seacrest Productions — Seeley said he's heard from them all.

"They put me in the National Enquirer, next to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. I mean I ain't into all that."

Not even for money? "Not for anything," Willie said. "Would you want a camera following you around all day when you finally have the time to go hunting and fishing and do all the things you wanted to do?"

Before all this happened, he and Donna had bills but at least they could be themselves, watching Duck Dynasty, a finger looped over a bottle of Moosehead Lager, friends on the way over. He says he bought a shotgun "for protection" and still can't act like a rich guy anyway. "I get cheap attacks," he said. "You never heard of a cheap attack? It's when you look at something you need, and think: Hell, I can't afford that."

"We're simple people," he said, posing for a picture next to his new truck, a shotgun in one hand, a practiced middle-finger extending from the other.

You got that world? Willie has a message for you too: Run.

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

NBC News

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89 comments. Last comment 6 months ago by TNPATL.
Page 1 of 6
weshar75's avatar - Lottery-042.jpg
Mcminnville, Oregon
United States
Member #3013
December 13, 2003
2230 Posts
Offline
Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:18 pm - IP Logged

I don't think I would have done the interview on the today show.  I know in oregon you have to do the press conference but you can limit what you say to people.  I would hate to be hounded bye people though.-weshar75

US Flag

    BuyLow's avatar - palm tree.jpg
    Florida
    United States
    Member #61435
    May 22, 2008
    769 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:18 pm - IP Logged

    Nightmare.  I have a written plan for when I win to hopefully avoid these types of situations.

      Arrowhead's avatar - underground
      Ohio
      United States
      Member #120759
      December 27, 2011
      247 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:28 pm - IP Logged

      Maybe I missed something here with good 'ol Willie, but I don't quite get the issue.

      It's not like he was the sole winner of a $450 mil jackpot. The JP was split all kinds of ways and the story says he cleared 'less than 4 million' after taxes.

      So, why is this so overwhelming to deal with? That's a nice chunk of change and most folks should certainly be able to retire off that. But you don't need a battery of lawyers/tax guys/ financial planners to handle that amount. 

      And some folks called wanting interviews? Tell 'em no and hang up the phone. Change your number if need be, but 4 mil should not be such a life-changing event to deal with.

        Avatar
        Keokuk,Iowa
        United States
        Member #116508
        September 12, 2011
        302 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:31 pm - IP Logged

        Maybe I missed something here with good 'ol Willie, but I don't quite get the issue.

        It's not like he was the sole winner of a $450 mil jackpot. The JP was split all kinds of ways and the story says he cleared 'less than 4 million' after taxes.

        So, why is this so overwhelming to deal with? That's a nice chunk of change and most folks should certainly be able to retire off that. But you don't need a battery of lawyers/tax guys/ financial planners to handle that amount. 

        And some folks called wanting interviews? Tell 'em no and hang up the phone. Change your number if need be, but 4 mil should not be such a life-changing event to deal with.

        I Agree!

          LottoMetro's avatar - get money.jpg
          Happyland
          United States
          Member #146350
          September 1, 2013
          377 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:32 pm - IP Logged

          And yet....he is still giving interviews.

          If the chances of winning the jackpot are so slim, why play when the jackpot is so small? Your chances never change, but the payoff does.

          If a crystal ball showed you the future of the rest of your life, and in that future you will never win a jackpot, would you still play?

          2013: -35.14% (158 tickets) || 2014: +78.57% (5 tickets)

            Artist77's avatar - batman14

            United States
            Member #121750
            January 16, 2012
            2876 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:36 pm - IP Logged

            This guy was colorful so the press latched onto him. Going onto a national show was a very poor decision. Telling people how many minutes away he was moving also was a little too specific. We all are getting mixed messages from him...lol

            Just as the bird sings or the butterfly soars,

            because it is his natural characteristic,

            so the artist works.

            by Alma  Gluck

              Arrowhead's avatar - underground
              Ohio
              United States
              Member #120759
              December 27, 2011
              247 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:43 pm - IP Logged

              Maybe I missed something here with good 'ol Willie, but I don't quite get the issue.

              It's not like he was the sole winner of a $450 mil jackpot. The JP was split all kinds of ways and the story says he cleared 'less than 4 million' after taxes.

              So, why is this so overwhelming to deal with? That's a nice chunk of change and most folks should certainly be able to retire off that. But you don't need a battery of lawyers/tax guys/ financial planners to handle that amount. 

              And some folks called wanting interviews? Tell 'em no and hang up the phone. Change your number if need be, but 4 mil should not be such a life-changing event to deal with.

              So, here's the part I missed the first time---this guy and his group won just LAST MONTH? And he's crying a river already about exposure...while he's still giving interviews? 

              Crazy

                JonnyBgood07's avatar - Patriots logo1.jpg
                Connecticut
                United States
                Member #61623
                May 29, 2008
                18805 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:45 pm - IP Logged

                pathetic really....Grow up Willie the wimp!

                "...Life is not a matter of holding good cards,but sometimes playing a poor hand well...
                'Fortune Cookie wisdom'

                 


                  Artist77's avatar - batman14

                  United States
                  Member #121750
                  January 16, 2012
                  2876 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:47 pm - IP Logged

                  Bet you all $, this guy is angling for a book deal. Mark my words, I said it first...lol.

                  Just as the bird sings or the butterfly soars,

                  because it is his natural characteristic,

                  so the artist works.

                  by Alma  Gluck

                    Kee12's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
                    I rep CA
                    Senegal
                    Member #144817
                    July 17, 2013
                    54 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: September 25, 2013, 5:52 pm - IP Logged

                    Ummm wait a minute, the one who took home less than $4m is complaining of exposure as well as giving advice to a huge jackpot winner?... He seem to be trying too hard to be heard.

                    I'd be a fool to surrender when I know I can be a contender...I C U when U get there - Coolio

                      ESR54's avatar - basket
                      BRONX N.Y.10459
                      United States
                      Member #86576
                      February 6, 2010
                      708 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: September 25, 2013, 6:12 pm - IP Logged

                      The thing is when  you poor  or living from  pay  check to pay check   no  one  know  you .Do  you ever  notice  if you hit big  people  want to be near you?

                      That's  life i suppose, But  i  would  donate  to churches,   to my families  and  buy a 4  or 5   bed room House  may  a pool  not too sure  because i love the

                       beach  to dip  in , Oh a big yard  because i  love  to plant  things .But  if i choose  to, i can keep  all  for myself , And don't  give away anything  why ,because  I am greeddy.Ha  Ha  Ha!!!!!!!!.

                        traemiah's avatar - Lottery-029.jpg
                        Shreveport, LA
                        United States
                        Member #146487
                        September 5, 2013
                        39 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: September 25, 2013, 6:12 pm - IP Logged

                        Dear Mr. Willie:

                        I am writing about your recent tragedy: Winning the Lotto.  The people do apologize for hounding you, but it appears you have caused this at your own free will.  Here's a thought- change your number, address, and whatever else you feel would be applicable for your succlusion.  Simply put: DO NOT REVEAL YOUR PERSONAL ENDEAVORS TO DISCOURAGE OTHER WINNERS. 

                        By the way, I am unsure if Mr. Willie is an LP member but this was meant in sarcasm.

                         

                        LP Members, some people have timelines of what the process would be in case of a BIG payout.  The media would not be a part of my timeline; however, I know you cannot control what other people do but you can control your actions.  Yes, you will have people coming out of the woodworks looking for handouts or desperately needing your help.  Guess what?  I have a plan for them, as well. 

                        That is all and thank you! Wink

                        Make that money.  Don't let it make you. Wink

                          gma4150's avatar - batman38
                          dayton ohio
                          United States
                          Member #81641
                          October 25, 2009
                          31 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: September 25, 2013, 6:16 pm - IP Logged

                          Sorry try as I might I just can't feel sorry for Willie. I play all the lotteries hoping toget lucky one day he wins and all he does is complain.

                            ESR54's avatar - basket
                            BRONX N.Y.10459
                            United States
                            Member #86576
                            February 6, 2010
                            708 Posts
                            Offline
                            Posted: September 25, 2013, 6:24 pm - IP Logged

                            Thanks  Members  of  LP  Traemiah, and  gma4150,   and  all  the others   we  will be  bless  one day  just  don't  try too hard,it will come  one day.[.pc]