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$3 million lottery winnings just chicken feed to farmer

Michigan LotteryMichigan Lottery: $3 million lottery winnings just chicken feed to farmer
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MANISTIQUE, Mich. — The millionaire opened his barn door and was greeted by the clucks of a thousand chickens.

Jeff LaBar walked into his chicken coop, gathered the eggs that had been laid overnight and brought them into the house to wash them by hand, one at a time, before packing them up and driving them to the few local supermarkets that are LaBar Poultry Farm's loyal customers.

Earlier that morning, the 53-year-old had gotten off his 12-hour overnight shift at the local lime plant, a second job he took awhile back to make ends meet. He napped for a few hours as the sun rose, and then got up to work with his wife, Heidi LaBar, on their chicken farm.

It was like any other day. Even though it didn't have to be anymore.

Just a few months ago, his house was in foreclosure. His chicken farm had few customers. He worked constantly. Then one day, on the way to work, he stopped at the gas station in town, grabbed the Lotto47 form, penciled in the numbers 14-18-23-28-37-40, and forgot about it.

A few days later, word spread around this town of about 3,000 — small by downstate standards, pretty big by Up North ones — that someone way up here in Manistique had hit it big and won the $3.3 million jackpot in the May 21 drawing.

LaBar didn't think anything of it.

"My brother flagged me over when I was getting out here to do chores and he said, 'Did you know someone in town hit the lottery? ... You should check your tickets.'"

Next time Jeff was in the house and remembered to look, he glanced at his lottery slip.

Instantly, this Up North, home-foreclosed, two-job-working chicken farmer was a millionaire.

"I found out it was me and totally I just dropped to my knees," he said. "Literally, I just prayed right there. I'm a born-again Christian, but I still played tickets and stuff, cause everybody needs a break."

He collected his winnings. Then he went right back to work.

Out of prison

Jeff and Heidi live in a house built onto an old barn just off a two-lane rural road. His mom's little house is next door. His brother lives across the street.

He's unassuming and polite, looks younger than his age and speaks with a distinct Yooper accent. His demeanor is humble.

It's a trait he developed while trying to rebound after years of getting into trouble. He was raised in Manistique, served a few years in the Navy, then came back home and became a drug user, then a drug dealer, then an inmate when he got caught and was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. He was released after seven.

When he got out, few people wanted anything to do with him.

"Everybody turned away," he said. "My family — my brother and my mom and my dad — were pretty much the only ones that stood by me and were there for me as much as they could be. But all the people who were all my so-called friends never talked to me."

But he was a changed man, he said. He'd become religious. He sobered up. Kept out of trouble. Worked hard. Met Heidi in church and married her.

And he started his own chicken farm, something he had wanted since he was a kid, when he watched his mom raise a few birds for the family.

He loves his chickens. During good times and bad times, they've been the one reliable constant he's had.

"I've always liked chickens," he said. "And I said I'd just like to do that for a living. But up here, we're so far from any populace or anywhere that would buy the needed amount to sustain or to make a living, so it's never really panned out."

His luck always seemed bad. He got a job as a lineman for an electric company, then got hit by a truck on the job. When he recovered, the company let him go.

He fell behind on his high-interest mortgage and was on the verge of losing his house.

Even when his fortunes seemed to be changing, they really weren't. This spring, he'd bought a lottery ticket and misread the results, and thought he'd won a million dollars. He and the store clerk were jumping up and down in excitement.

Then they realized he'd won only $100. "I thought I saw a lot more zeros," he admitted.

But he kept buying tickets. Two weeks later, everything changed.

Too scared to change

"At first I was like, 'Oh my goodness, you can quit your job!' cause that's what he really wanted to do,'" said Heidi, 59. "But he's always been a worker, so chances are he'll always be working. I can't see him not having chickens. He just lives and breathes them."

Jeff admits he is too scared to change how he lives.

"I never had money to invest," he said. "So I don't know anything about that, like I'm totally lost about that. It's just such a big step to trust somebody with investing that money. And then quit your job that you already have and everyone likes you and you're doing halfway decent with that..."

The couple opted for the lump-sum payment, which brought their earnings down to $2.1 million. Taxes cut that remainder nearly in half. But it's still a lot of money for a guy who had so little of it for so long.

"It was just a relief to know that we have security in retirement now that we never had before," Heidi said. "It's wonderful."

They went to the lottery office, taking along their toy poodle Bailey because he's part of the family, too, and smiled as they were given an oversize novelty check. They've still got it in their house.

There were no big parties, no expensive toys, no long trips. The only two indulgences the couple allowed themselves were to take a family vacation to Florida to see relatives, and a golf cart Jeff bought because he thought it would make it easier for his wife to haul eggs from the barn up to the house instead of walking.

Otherwise, life goes on as it did before.

Jeff takes care of his farm, works at the lime plant all night, naps a few hours, then starts the cycle over.

On top of that, he has a car-detailing business on the farm. And his wife has her own home business, Manistique Upholstery, fixing people's pickup seats. Like a lot of people in the U.P., where there aren't a whole lot of places to work, they have different jobs during different seasons, hoping all of them add up to a decent living.

Everything is different for them, and yet nothing really is. Except now, Jeff's free to be what he always wanted to be — just an Up North chicken farmer.

"I prayed for years and years and years for some type of turnaround, a blessing somehow," Jeff said. "I don't care if I'm filthy rich, but... maybe get it so I don't need to be going to work at that lime plant. Make it so I can get out of there and just do my little farming thing."

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

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

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

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

Detroit Free Press

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35 comments. Last comment 1 month ago by Scratch$.
Page 1 of 3
rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
Texas
United States
Member #55889
October 23, 2007
3403 Posts
Offline
Posted: August 21, 2014, 9:10 am - IP Logged

Geez,

I love reading stories like this.

Congrats Jeff!

CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

    Avatar
    NEW YORK
    United States
    Member #90537
    April 29, 2010
    3306 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: August 21, 2014, 9:15 am - IP Logged

    The lottery is helping the economy?

      sully16's avatar - sharan
      Listens to the wind
      Michigan
      United States
      Member #81740
      October 28, 2009
      19932 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: August 21, 2014, 9:21 am - IP Logged

      Know that Yooper accent well, Congrats to Jeff and Heidi, enjoy! Cheers

      There's only one US Flag

        rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
        Texas
        United States
        Member #55889
        October 23, 2007
        3403 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: August 21, 2014, 9:23 am - IP Logged

        Know that Yooper accent well, Congrats to Jeff and Heidi, enjoy! Cheers

        Do YOU have a yooper accent sully? LOL.

        What does it sound like?

        CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

        A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

          sully16's avatar - sharan
          Listens to the wind
          Michigan
          United States
          Member #81740
          October 28, 2009
          19932 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: August 21, 2014, 9:28 am - IP Logged

          Do YOU have a yooper accent sully? LOL.

          What does it sound like?

          I lived up there for 8 years, no accent. lol

          Hard to describe,( about) sounds like" a boot"

          There's only one US Flag

            Tialuvslotto's avatar - Jailin
            Texas
            United States
            Member #150804
            December 31, 2013
            206 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: August 21, 2014, 10:24 am - IP Logged

            Best wishes to Jeff & Heidi.

            I'm always glad to hear that someone who could really use the help is a winner!

            If you can track it you can trap it!  Hippy

              Avatar
              OHIO
              United States
              Member #4164
              March 27, 2004
              11132 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: August 21, 2014, 11:22 am - IP Logged

              "I am what I am by the grace of God."

              Kitfany

              http://www.ohiolottery.com/

                Avatar
                New York, NY
                United States
                Member #13514
                April 7, 2005
                233 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: August 21, 2014, 12:38 pm - IP Logged

                WOW what a story.  Well good for him.

                  ThatScaryChick's avatar - AbnSTiA

                  United States
                  Member #56506
                  November 21, 2007
                  4657 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: August 21, 2014, 1:11 pm - IP Logged

                  Congrats to Jeff and his Wife.

                  "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

                    dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
                    Oklahoma
                    United States
                    Member #82391
                    November 12, 2009
                    5402 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: August 21, 2014, 2:17 pm - IP Logged

                    Congratulation Jeff and Heidi love reading stories like this what a blessing, glad he was able to turn his life around Thumbs Up

                    I Love Pink & Green 1908

                      Saylorgirl's avatar - Lottery-065.jpg
                      Indiana
                      United States
                      Member #129230
                      June 13, 2012
                      349 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: August 21, 2014, 2:34 pm - IP Logged

                      Congratulations Jeff and Heidi!!  What a great story.

                        dpoly1's avatar - driver
                        PA
                        United States
                        Member #66141
                        October 16, 2008
                        1449 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: August 21, 2014, 2:41 pm - IP Logged

                        Awesome!

                        dpoly1 - Playing the lottery to save the jobs of those that build, transport, sell & maintain luxury items! -

                         

                        Eschew Poverty ........... Vote Conservative!

                          noise-gate's avatar - images q=tbn:ANd9GcR91HDs4UJhjxO7cmeMQWZ5lB_FOcMLOGicau4V74R45tDgPWrr
                          Bay Area/ California
                          United States
                          Member #136482
                          December 12, 2012
                          2059 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: August 21, 2014, 2:52 pm - IP Logged

                          Congratulations Jeff & Heidi.

                          Party

                          You go right ahead and " count your chickens!"

                            Babes333's avatar - Lottery-059.jpg
                            Alberta
                            Canada
                            Member #101972
                            December 12, 2010
                            24 Posts
                            Offline
                            Posted: August 21, 2014, 3:35 pm - IP Logged

                            Great win!!!  I'am so happy of his turn around, now he understands the simple things are the most important.  Him and his family will do well!!!

                            I 'am hungry I think I will have some eggs lol;mmmmmmmmm

                            I' Am Blessed And Highly Favored.  I Thank-You, Our Lord Jesus and YHWH!Sun Smiley