Hector Rivera played the New Jersey Lottery for 20 years, promising any jackpot he won would go to his five children.
Like most people who talk about winning a multimillion-dollar jackpot, Rivera was dismissed by his children as a dreamer.
"Nobody ever thought anything about it," said Michael Cioffi, Rivera's oldest son. "We just thought he had a lot of fun dreaming about winning some day."
Rivera's dream came true Oct. 13, when the Vineland man was the only winner to hit a $6.1 million Pick 6 jackpot.
And the 54-year-old retired carpenter stayed true to his word. It just took a while for him to tell everybody about the family's good luck.
"He told us he had to speak to all of us," said Cioffi, a 31-year-old nursing student in Maplewood acting as a family spokesman. "And he wouldn't tell us what it was about."
The family assumed their father, a divorcee, might be getting remarried; or worse, thought he was seriously ill.
"He said it wasn't bad, but nobody believed him," Cioffi said Monday. "We couldn't think of anything good that could happen."
Last week, Rivera's two sons and three daughters gathered at their father's home in Vineland to hear the big news.
"None of us had any idea," Cioffi said. "My dad really kept a poker face."
Four of the children, who range in age from 23 to 31, opted for the one-time cash payment of $790,409 before taxes. One child received a double share, or $1,580,818.
The family is trying to keep their good fortune as low-key as possibly.
The other four children -- Jennifer, Janell and Janitta Rivera, all of Vineland, and Fabian Rivera of Seaside Heights -- declined comment.
"They live in small towns and they know what can happen to lottery winners," Cioffi said. "I was elected spokesman because I live up in North Jersey."
The newfound riches, however, aren't translating into major changes in any of their lives.
Three of the five children, including Cioffi, are students.
"I found out about it Tuesday and drove back home to study for exams I had on Friday," he said. "Right now my priority is to get through school."
A new car, home or some traveling are the big plans for each of the winners, Cioffi said.
One of his siblings' winnings will go to help a seriously ill co-worker, he said.
"We're all pretty well grounded," Cioffi said. "Nobody's going out and quitting their jobs or anything like that."
Hector Rivera declined comment.
The only information released about his winning ticket is that five of the numbers -- 11, 12, 17, 18 and 31 -- were the birthdays of his children. The sixth number, 38, was chosen randomly. Rivera picked different numbers for the sixth spot each week, Cioffi said.
Rivera declined to keep a dime of his winnings.
"We're a close-knit family," Cioffi said. "Dad knows his children are going to take care of him."
The story of the Rivera family is an example of the finest attributes of the state's lottery, said N.J. Lottery officials.
"The lottery was designed, in part, to enrich peoples' lives," said spokesman Everett Merrill. "It certainly appears to have happened in this family."
The winning ticket was purchased here at Ed and Alba's Market on North East Boulevard. The store's owner, Deveenbra Patel, will get a $2,000 prize from the state, Merrill said.
But Patel said he has yet to hear from Rivera.
"I don't know who he is," Patel said Monday. "Nobody came to the store to say they won."
No snub intended, Cioffi said.
"He's just like that," he said of his father.
"He doesn't want to be famous. He just wants everything for his children."