Paul and Carol Daniels literally threw away their chance to be millionaires. Just tossed it in the trash with the coffee grounds and banana peels.
But as luck would have it - and the Danville couple have been on a pretty good streak lately - they were able to retrieve their ticket to fortune before it wound up in the landfill. A $4 million Lotto South jackpot is a terrible thing to waste. "This whole thing has just been a big fluke in so many ways," Carol Daniels said Wednesday via telephone from Kentucky Lottery Corp. headquarters in Louisville, where she and her husband had gone to claim their prize in the June 29 Lotto South drawing. "It's been just like a dream, it's been so unreal."
Big Fluke No. 1: Paul Daniels was killing time at the Danville Kroger store on June 27 waiting for his wife to check out with the groceries they had just picked up. Loitering by the counter where lottery tickets are sold, Paul decided to buy three Powerball tickets as the couple occasionally did, playing numbers linked with birthdays and anniversaries. "Out of the blue, he said 'Oh, just give me one of those Lotto South Quickpicks, too,'" Carol said.
Paul, 62, just retired from Kentucky School for the Deaf, where he was supervisor of the high school dormitory. Carol, 60, is principal at Mercer County Elementary. Both are avid golfers and maintain busy summer schedules. The lottery tickets were not front and center in their minds.
Big Fluke No. 2
Until June 30, the morning after the drawing, which leads to Big Fluke No. 2.
Normally, Carol gets an early start on the day, heading to her school or the golf course. But on this day, her back was bothering her, so she was idling on the couch, watching the Today Show. A local news segment mentioned that a winning Lotto South ticket had been sold at the Danville Kroger, and Carol took a mental note of the numbers - 2, 10, 11, 13, 33, 42 - and asked Paul if he had checked their tickets.
It turned out that Paul had checked the tickets the night before. Seeing no winners in the Powerball game, he discarded the tickets in the trash can under the kitchen sink. But news that a winning ticket had been sold in Danville was enough to merit a second look.
"He dumped the entire bag out in the sink and went through it all piece by piece," Carol said. "When he found the tickets, they were kind of wet, but you could still read them. He started calling out the numbers to me one by one and I kept saying 'Yeah, I remember that one' and 'I think that was one of them.' I went crazy."
They called Kroger to make sure they had hit all the winning numbers. But they kept their celebration to themselves, telling only their two sons. They kept the secret through a family reunion in Lexington that weekend - "We didn't want that to be the focus of the reunion," Carol explained - then took a planned vacation to Las Vegas with friends. The winning ticket remained tucked away in a lock box, and the jackpot remained unclaimed.
They would rather have remained anonymous
Before coming forward, the couple consulted an attorney and a financial adviser. They decided to take a lump-sum, after-tax payment of $1.46 million and took their ticket to the lottery office on Wednesday. Though they would rather have remained anonymous, state law requires jackpot winners to be identified.
"We're not people who like the limelight," Carol said.
The couple have no extravagant plans for their windfall. A trust fund will be established to pay for the education of their eight grandchildren. They'll help their two sons pay for their houses. That is it, so far.
"Nobody is quitting their jobs. This will just make things easier for everybody," Carol said. "We both just feel so blessed with our lives they way they are. We're comfortable with where we are."
Though the couple were already in good shape, retirement-wise, before hitting the jackpot, Carol has no intention of leaving Mercer County Elementary any time soon, mostly because she loves her job so much.
"I've got the best school in the world," she said. "My staff, the kids, the parents. It would just be so hard to leave."