NASHVILLE — Bobbi Hubbard, of South Pittsburg, Tenn., keeps busy working on community projects like trying to start a free medical clinic in Marion County. She’s lived in the same house for 18 years.
On the outside, there’s little to show that she hit a $25.5 million Powerball jackpot in 2005, making her the state’s all-time big winner as Powerball marks its seventh anniversary in Tennessee. And, unlike some cases in other states where big lottery winners didn’t handle their fast fortune well, Hubbard and her family have had a smooth transition through reasonably prudent spending and by taking a businesslike approach.
“We do take a few more vacations,” she said cheerfully in a telephone interview. But not to the South of France. And there’s no yacht for such travel.
Powerball has become one of the most popular lottery games in the state. The $1 tickets have accounted for more than $1 billion in sales in Tennessee, and 243 Powerball tickets worth $100,000 or more have been sold in Tennessee. Twenty-five were worth at least $1 million.
For Hubbard, now 47, “the first thing we did was get a trustee to manage the money,” she recalled.
They paid off bills and their mortgage. “The rest we invested,” Hubbard said.
“Now we live off the interest. We have a certain amount each month we live on. Hopefully it will last forever. We’ve tried to be careful about it.”
Of course, the jackpot has allowed her family to do a little splashy splurging. But not too much.
They immediately bought a red Dodge Durango so six family members could travel 100 miles to Nashville to claim their winnings. They took home $13.8 million in a lump sum payment.
They later bought a four-bedroom, 21⁄2-bath home a block from the beach in Panama City, Fla.
“We go there about once a month,” Hubbard said.
Then, she bought a red 2009 Dodge Challenger and husband Richie got a blue 2010 one.
Meanwhile, the Hubbards sold their auto parts store and repair shop. They had won a $25,000 bonus for owning the retail shop that sold the winning ticket.
“We have kind of retired,” she said.
Richie, though, keeps busy tinkering with vehicles. Before his ticket matched all six Powerball numbers on March 30, 2005, he’d been an auto mechanic specializing in electrical systems and transmissions.
“‘I still work on ’em every day,” he said. But they must be speedballs.
“I don’t want one if you can outrun it,” said Richie, now 57.
Their three sons have remained well grounded despite the family fortune. One wants to become a minister and is in Israel on an exchange program. Another is a police officer in Kimball, Tenn., fulfilling a lifelong dream to work in law enforcement. The third works at an auto parts retailer with sidelines at a fitness center and renting recreation equipment.
“I think they’ve all got good work ethics,” Richie Hubbard said.
The same low-key reaction to sudden wealth applies to another winner, 67-year-old Rowena McIntyre, of Martin.
McIntyre can rattle off the date she matched all five white numbers and won $1 million in Powerball: “Nov. 21, 2009.”
For her, there was no new house, no new car. Like the Hubbards, she was cautious about her bulging bankroll.
“I called an attorney the first thing,” McIntyre recalled.
And she kept working as a phlebotomist, or a medical worker who draws blood, for a year. However she did save her son from bankruptcy and put a grandson through college.
“Nobody would know I hit the lottery,” she said. “I don’t go around flaunting it.
“I still do volunteer work. But if I don’t want to get up in the morning, I don’t have to.”
And she still buys Powerball tickets:
“I play every time it’s out. You never know.”
Powerball, offered by 44 lotteries, has been played nationally since April 1992. The biggest jackpot ever, according to the Powerball website, was $365 million in 2006 divided by eight ConAgra Foods workers in Lincoln, Neb. They got $15.5 million each after taxes.
Just last week, seven state workers in New York won a $319 million Mega Millions jackpot.
In Tennessee, Powerball has accounted for 13 percent of lottery sales. According to lottery officials, it’s generated an estimated $420 million in gross profit for education. On the down side, projections show shortfalls between expected lottery proceeds and the costs of scholarships in the next few years.
“People like large jackpots and Powerball is the best known name,” said Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the Tennessee Lottery.
The Hubbard family, like McIntyre, keeps playing.
Says Bobbi: “My husband will call all excited and say, ‘I won $12.’”
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