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Who's laughing now? Jokester is $258 million richer

Mega MillionsMega Millions: Who's laughing now? Jokester is $258 million richer

Last week, he was a guy who drove a Toyota Camry to work trying to convince people they needed to buy pots and pans, a guy whose shtick was mildly amusing -- at best -- to friends, a guy whose own wife said he talked too much.

But on Friday, Harold Lerner got to do his shtick in front of hundreds of people and more than a dozen television cameras, knowing he probably had more money than all of them combined. He and his wife, Helen, were introduced at a press conference as the sole winners of a $258 million Mega Millions jackpot, the largest single-ticket win in New Jersey history.

And suddenly, everyone was hanging on every joke and wisecrack the 60-year-old Rutherford man made, from how he hid the winning ticket in his wife's lingerie drawer ("It was either that or my underwear drawer; it was an easy choice") to pretending he was an Internal Revenue Service agent who would audit every reporter who asked him a question.

He said the only things he and his wife had ever won before were a pair of Yankees tickets and a frozen turkey.

When asked how old he was, he replied that he was 27 and his wife 21. He joked about being suspicious of the lottery commission security official who took his ticket, and nearly giggled when he talked about how he and his wife walked around town for 48 hours, telling no one the big news until the lottery commission offices opened Monday morning.

"Saturday morning we received a phone call from our friend telling us somebody in Rutherford bought the winning ticket," Harold Lerner said. "I'm thinking, "It can't be me.' Little did I know it was my wife who purchased the ticket. We ran downstairs, on the top of the newspaper were the five numbers, and I read off the numbers.

"She says, "Honey, I think we're millionaires,"' he said. "We hugged, kissed and embraced. I'm thinking, "This can't be right, maybe we made a mistake.' We checked it 500 times."

But the winning numbers from the Sept. 16 drawing -- 5, 16, 41, 46, 50 and the Gold Mega Ball number 1 -- were all there. They got paranoid, Helen Lerner said, and stashed the ticket in her underwear drawer. Then they went for a walk around town, where residents were still buzzing about the as-yet unknown lottery winner.

"We're trying to be very cool about this," Harold Lerner said. They went to a friend's party that weekend, still telling no one their secret.

On Monday, a longtime family friend who is an attorney accompanied them to lottery headquarters to start the claims process. Since Helen Lerner, who bought the ticket, chose the cash option, they will get a total of $156.1 million, before federal taxes take about one-fourth of that, lottery officials said.

Besides being New Jersey's largest single-ticket jackpot, the Lerners' prize also is the fifth-largest lottery jackpot ever awarded in the U.S., lottery officials said. Mega Millions is played in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Helen Lerner, who used to live in Ocean City and formerly worked for a drug wholesaler, said she only plays the lottery when the jackpot exceeds $100 million.

They said some of their winnings would go toward Hurricane Katrina victims, as well as to Seton Hall University, where Helen Lerner graduated in 1976.

"I know that God is good," said Monsignor Robert Sheeran, Seton Hall's president. "But sometimes God is very, very good. Today is one of those days."

Harold Lerner said he would buy a yellow Checker taxi, a reminder of his childhood in Brooklyn, and give anyone who wanted one a free ride.

"We're really in dreamland at this point," he said. "I still don't believe it."

He said the couple would wait awhile before determining how to spend their unfathomable riches, and his wife said she had one purchase in mind, but would not say what it was. They say they plan to stay in Rutherford, where they've lived for the past 12 years, and try to live as normal a life as possible.

Both, however, are retired, effective immediately. And that's no joke.

AP

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12 comments. Last comment 11 years ago by CASH Only.
Page 1 of 1
MillionsWanted's avatar - 24Qa6LT

Norway
Member #9517
December 10, 2004
1272 Posts
Offline
Posted: September 24, 2005, 6:27 pm - IP Logged

Now he can do whatever he want, lucky guy.

    Ineed2win's avatar - cold
    New Member
    Raleigh NC
    United States
    Member #14522
    April 27, 2005
    11 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: September 24, 2005, 9:55 pm - IP Logged

     Dance I wish these folks luck trying to live a normal life now !  Jerk the phone out of the wall and take a long,long, long vacation.  Be a little crazy but don't go insane.... with that much money I would.

      Down's avatar - Sphere animated2.gif
      Riverside, Ca
      United States
      Member #21722
      September 14, 2005
      173 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: September 25, 2005, 7:44 pm - IP Logged

      ok guys get over it, they won who cares

        Avatar
        New Mexico
        United States
        Member #12305
        March 10, 2005
        2984 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: September 25, 2005, 9:57 pm - IP Logged

        Cool icon.  Been trying to figure out how you did it.

        Jack

        Absorb the good, ignore the bad, weigh the ugly.

        It's about number behavior.

        Egos don't count.

         

        Dedicated to the memory of Big Loooser

         

          Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
          Chief Bottle Washer
          New Jersey
          United States
          Member #1
          May 31, 2000
          23259 Posts
          Online
          Posted: September 25, 2005, 11:04 pm - IP Logged

          ok guys get over it, they won who cares

          Sounds like someone is a bit jealous.  Don't worry, we all are.

           

          Check the State Lottery Report Card
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          Sign the Petition for True Lottery Drawings
          Help eliminate computerized drawings!


            United States
            Member #6388
            August 20, 2004
            3578 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: September 25, 2005, 11:20 pm - IP Logged

            All I can Say Is, Congrats,everyone has their day to shine,some are juz brighter than others,to be honest,I'm happy to whomever wins,an is blessed with good fortune,I can say this,because my life is good an I count every blessing i've been given.I don't talk down on others because when you do that,you take away from yourself,so praise those who get,an encourage those who miss out,an let them know that,"You have to believe,an have faith,never give up,because your blessings are on the way"...

            Good luck to everyone!

            U.N.V.ME

              BabyJC's avatar - Lottery-031.jpg

              United States
              Member #3271
              January 7, 2004
              148 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: September 26, 2005, 10:15 am - IP Logged

              I cannot believe that they put the winning ticket in the underwear drawer and actually left the house!  They are so lucky that a burglar didn't decide to break in that day -- They always rumage through underwear drawers, etc.  For heaven's sake, they should have stayed home or kept the ticket with them!

                Avatar
                New Mexico
                United States
                Member #12305
                March 10, 2005
                2984 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: September 26, 2005, 10:50 am - IP Logged

                I cannot believe that they put the winning ticket in the underwear drawer and actually left the house!  They are so lucky that a burglar didn't decide to break in that day -- They always rumage through underwear drawers, etc.  For heaven's sake, they should have stayed home or kept the ticket with them!

                Depends on the underwear in the drawer.  Might well be the safest place in the house.

                Jack

                Absorb the good, ignore the bad, weigh the ugly.

                It's about number behavior.

                Egos don't count.

                 

                Dedicated to the memory of Big Loooser

                 

                  Avatar
                  New Member
                  East Liverpool
                  United States
                  Member #20369
                  August 16, 2005
                  2 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: September 26, 2005, 10:56 am - IP Logged

                  congrat. God blessed you too prove you are a blessin to everyone so don't be greedy God don't like ugly and don't forget to give him back what is his already 10% of it an may God bless everyone

                    Avatar
                    Greenwich, CT
                    United States
                    Member #4793
                    May 24, 2004
                    1822 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: September 26, 2005, 11:24 am - IP Logged

                    I cannot believe that they put the winning ticket in the underwear drawer and actually left the house!  They are so lucky that a burglar didn't decide to break in that day -- They always rumage through underwear drawers, etc.  For heaven's sake, they should have stayed home or kept the ticket with them!

                    Depends on the underwear in the drawer.  Might well be the safest place in the house.

                    Jack

                    Haha.

                    I think as long as they had made a photocopy and knew all the details, they would be just fine.

                      Avatar

                      United States
                      Member #10720
                      January 23, 2005
                      933 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: September 27, 2005, 8:41 pm - IP Logged

                      I suggest keep going to the Leprechaun if you're in that area. Since I started going there about once or twice a week, I have won on five different tickets - small amounts, but helpful! Being the Mega ticket was a quick-pick my "mega algorithm" is to do the same thing only at the Leprechaun.


                        United States
                        Member #379
                        June 5, 2002
                        11296 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: September 29, 2005, 9:53 am - IP Logged

                        I wonder if they're also playing Powerball now that it's $167 million. But they would have to pay state tax, even though PA doesn't tax in-state lottery winnings.