A 77-year-old retired Salinas hospital worker and regular lottery player will collect $21.2 million in cash after winning Saturday's $37 million SuperLotto drawing.
Mitsuko Higashi presented her golden ticket at the Lottery's Hayward office and opted for the cash payment Monday.
Higashi told Lottery officials she's been playing regularly for 25 years, always buying her tickets at Las Lomas Market & Gas on San Juan Grade Road in Salinas, where the winning ticket was purchased. She was too sick to go out Saturday, but sent her daughter to buy $3 worth of Quick Picks.
She learned she'd won Monday morning when she checked the newspaper for the winning numbers. How did she feel when she realized all the numbers matched?
"How do you think I felt? I thought I lost my mind," she said, describing the experience like being doused with a bucket of ice water.
She said she knows what she wants to do with the winnings.
"I'm going to take care of my family," she said.
The owners of the Las Lomas Market will receive $185,000, or 0.5 percent of the jackpot, as a bonus for selling the winning ticket.
Jesse Lopez, a cashier at the market, said Higashi was a regular customer. He believed his friend and co-worker Miguel Sanchez sold the winning ticket Saturday.
Higashi always bought SuperLotto or Mega Millions tickets, Lopez said.
"All the time, she would say, 'When I win, I'll come back and see you,'" he said.
Asked what he would say to her if she visits the store again, he said, "Congratulations."