Generous couple gives store clerk college money
Rhonda Meath waits tables for a living. Her husband, Joe, is a retired turbine operator who still does some snowplowing at a nearby gas station. They live on a quiet 10 acres in northern Anoka County.
None of that is likely to change, the Bethel couple say, now that they're $11.71 million richer, thanks to a winning lottery ticket Joe bought at that gas station.
As the Meaths drove to Minnesota Lottery headquarters in Rosevilleon Monday morning to claim their Hot Lotto jackpot, Rhonda was thinking about her job at the Lake Elmo Inn.
"I have a fabulous job, and I like to work. I actually have to work tonight," she said as she and Joe chatted with family members, friends and reporters.
As it turns out, she was able to get her shift covered and enjoy the day with her family, including lunch out. The waitress got a $100 tip.
The Meaths, married 32 years, are Minnesota natives with four grown children, three grandchildren, three dogs and a penchant for small-town life.
"I don't think it's going to change our life that much," Joe said.
"We really hope it doesn't change the people around us," Rhonda added.
The couple struck it rich Saturday night when their Hot Lotto numbers were drawn. As a bonus, the lottery picks up the taxes on this game's big payout. Otherwise, the Meaths would have been on the hook for state and federal taxes totaling 32.25 percent.
The Meaths are the second Anoka County family to hit it big on the lottery recently. Paul White of Ham Lake won a $148 million Powerball jackpot last year.
Joe Meath, 53, who retired from Xcel Energy about three years ago after a back injury, plays the lottery every day.
He bought the ticket Saturday at Corner Express in East Bethel, the service station that he plows in the winter.
Players choose five numbers from 1 to 47 and one Hot Lotto number from 1 to 19. Saturday night's numbers were 1-2-3-25-30 with a Hot Ball of 19.
When Joe Meath realized he had won big around 10:30 Saturday night, he woke up Rhonda and stashed the winning ticket in his gun safe.
They called relatives and friends. It was nearly life as usual for the rest of the weekend. Rhonda Meath still attended a dog show on Sunday.
Joe Meath said the prospect of becoming instant millionaires has been "overwhelming," conceding that he had a hard time sleeping.
"It took a while for it to sink in," he added.
"We're just ordinary people," said Rhonda Meath, 51.
She grew up in White Bear Lake and he in Red Wing. They moved to Bethel 17 years ago when White Bear Lake started to feel a bit too citified.
Joe Meath likes to hunt pheasants and ducks. He may go elk hunting this year.
Rhonda Meath raises and shows German shepherds. Her dog Smith is nationally ranked in agility competitions. She also started and oversees the network of therapy dog owners who volunteer at the Anoka County Corrections juvenile division.
Asked what they'll do with the money, the Meaths are thinking modestly so far.
"We are going to set money aside for each of our kids," Rhonda Meath said.
They'll probably buy a new vehicle — another dog-friendly Chevy Suburban. Joe Meath said he's been thinking about getting an RV.
Rhonda Meath, who volunteers with the St. Paul Police K-9 Federation, will donate a German shepherd to be named Ronny, after her father.
Asked whether they'll buy a big new house, the couple said they had been talking about downsizing.
Corner Express, at Viking Boulevard and Coon Lake Drive, will receive a bonus from the lottery as seller of the jackpot ticket. That is a tidy $10,000, but the store will be liable for the taxes.
The Meaths met Monday with the 18-year-old clerk who sold Joe the winning ticket and gave her $15,000 for college.
The total is the biggest Hot Lotto jackpot hit in Minnesota, which has sold tickets for this game since 2002. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia also participate in Hot Lotto. With Saturday's game producing a winner, the pot now rolls back to $1 million for Wednesday's drawing.
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