Local woman wins biggest jackpot in state history
Judy Finchum is the kind of person who buys socks for her grandkids at Christmas. She clips coupons to save money and worried that driving a Lincoln Aviator SUV might seem too fancy when she first bought it.
When she was 12 years old, she started cleaning houses for money to buy clothes. They all pitched in to help make ends meet in a family with eight children and a disabled father who was paralyzed. She remembers picking fruit to make money to afford things they needed, and her practical ways continued when she grew up and made a home of her own.
This week is the first time in 30 years that Finchum hasn’t purchased a Powerball ticket. That’s because she won the largest jackpot in Colorado history on Sunday, when her ticket matched all six numbers, earning her $133.2 million in winnings.
Colorado Lottery officials presented the Clifton resident with the big check on Tuesday after confirming she held the winning ticket, and members of her family and friends gathered to celebrate at the Grand Junction Lottery office where she recounted her experience.
Finchum has been playing the same numbers — 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31 — weekly, without fail, for three decades. She calls them her “birthday numbers.” She even kept 25, which came from her ex-husband’s birthday, as part of the mix after they divorced. She’s a native of the Grand Valley who moved away for a while and lived in northeast Oklahoma for a stint but came back. When she lived there, she’d drive to Joplin, Missouri, to play Powerball since Oklahoma didn’t offer it at the time.
She bought the winning ticket where she usually does — at the aptly named Lucky Me Super Store on the corner of 29 and Patterson roads.
On Sunday morning, she got up early as usual, poured some coffee and pulled up the lottery numbers on her phone. At first, she just noticed she had matched the Powerball number, 24, but then she saw 17, 18, 24, 25, and at first she thought the last number was 32. She thought, well, that’s still a lot of money.
“And then I blinked again and saw it was 31,” she said. “Then I started to freak out.”
After double-checking the numbers online, she went out to the car and got the ticket, which she always keeps tucked into the visor in the car.
It was a match.
She ran to wake up her husband, Mac, who was still in bed, and they stumbled down the hallway together so he could verify what she couldn’t believe had happened.
They called her daughter, Karie Padilla, next, telling her to hurry and get over to their house, and Padilla was worried by the urgency of the request. When she arrived, she saw the Lottery page open on the laptop screen and saw the ticket sitting there.
“Was it you?” she asked.
As the couple sat together with a roomful of family, friends, Lottery officials and reporters Tuesday, they said they felt blessed and they want to share with their loved ones.
Finchum, 67, said she and her 70-year-old husband will be taking the full payout instead of yearly payments. “We’re too old,” she said, noting that they were taking their accountant’s advice.
The cash payout totals $84.6 million, but that amount is subject to a 29 percent tax from the federal and state governments, totaling more than $24.5 million. They’ll receive more than $66 million of the total jackpot after taxes.
The Colorado Lottery announced there were two other big winners who bought tickets in the Grand Valley in this drawing — a $100,000 prize from a ticket purchased at the Walmart Neighborhood Market by a woman named Susan H. and an unknown ticketholder who won $50,000 from a ticket purchased at the Safeway at 681 Horizon Drive. That person has not come forward yet but has 180 days from the drawing to cash in the prize, according to lottery spokeswoman Kelly Tabor.
The Lucky Me convenience store owners also received $50,000 for being the retailer who sold the jackpot-winning ticket.
Thirty-year-old Ratha Vann, who owns the store with her husband, Alex Vat, said they were thrilled and surprised to be the store that sold the winning ticket. She recognizes Finchum and said she’s a regular at the store.
Vann said they bought the convenience store a little over a year ago, when they moved from Fresno, California, where they owned a donut shop. They plan on using their award to remodel the business.
She’s happy her customer had good fortune at their store.
“That’s why I put the name on it,” she said, laughing.
Finchum’s immediate plans are to retire from her job selling Xerox equipment and as a Realtor for Pure Country Real Estate. Her husband Mac said he’d like his first purchase to be new tires for his 1996 Ford pickup.
“I need those tires so I can go fishing,” he said.
He admits he might spring for a new pickup as well as the tires.
The couple also indicated they want to use part of the winnings to assist victims of wildfires and hurricanes that have happened over the summer, and might plan a trip to Florida to visit family.
Other than that, they said they don’t see their lives changing much and they’re not worried that someone might try to take advantage of their good fortune.
“We’re pretty level-headed,” Finchum said. “I hope people won’t.”
Overall, they just want to use the winnings for fun and to help out their loved ones. They aren’t planning on purchasing any mansions or fancy things anytime soon.
“I don’t think being extravagant is the way God wants us to be,” Finchum said.
“We had a good life before this happened, but this makes it that much better,” she said.