William James Albertson held his 5-month-old baby as he checked the numbers on his Mega Millions lottery ticket with those on the computer screen Sunday morning.
The first two matched. So did the second pair.
Then, as Albertson sat at the computer in his Mahopac home, the unthinkable happened.
"I kept looking at it and they all matched, so that's when I got a little shaky," the 35-year-old insurance manager recalled.
The shakes were gone yesterday, when Albertson was revealed as the $75 million winner of the latest Mega Millions jackpot, the multistate lottery game, at a news conference at Grand Central Terminal. He was one of three winners with ties to the Lower Hudson Valley announced.
"I've got a lot of college to pay for," said Albertson, the father of four, when asked the inevitable question of how he planned to spend the money.
The after-tax payout Albertson is to receive shortly totals slightly more than $45 million, according to the New York Lottery. That is perhaps enough for Albertson to purchase a small, rural college campus for his children, who are from 5 months to 11 years old.
It was only the second time that Albertson — known as WJ to friends — had played the lottery. An Illinois native who moved to Mahopac in 2005, Albertson first tried his luck the previous Monday. His modest gambling spree was inspired by the visit of his father, who had bought a lottery ticket in each state on his way to New York.
When prompted to reveal more plans for his riches, Albertson said he would like to retire early, but made it clear his family was not planning a spending spree or any drastic changes soon.
"No plans at this point, just trying to keep things as normal as possible for the kids," Albertson said.
Even a trip to Florida that Albertson; his wife, Crista; and children will soon take has been in the works since February.
It was Crista whom Albertson woke at 7:30 a.m. to make sure he had read his ticket and computer screen correctly.
"I said, 'I hate to wake you up, but you better come look at this,'" recalled Albertson, who bought the ticket at the Red Mills Market in Mahopac Falls.
The announcement of the winners was hosted by actor and Lottery pitchman Ralph Buckley and Yolanda Vega, whose melodious voice intones the winning numbers of each night's Lottery drawing.
The other Lower Hudson Valley winners were Arif Darwin, 41, a Woodside, Queens, resident and employee at Skyline Construction in Yonkers, who won $1 million; and Samuel Carcova, 52, the Cortlandt highway superintendent, who won $250,000. Both said they planned to put their money toward their children's college education.
"We have two in college now. It's a big weight off my shoulders," Carcova said.
"It's perfect timing," added his wife, Rebecca.