April Fools' Day is perhaps not the best day to tell family members you've won the Lottery. Just ask Ted Baumgartner, who won $50 million in the March 30 Powerball drawing. He discovered he won the morning of April 1, two days after the drawing, and started calling and texting family members with the good news. His mother, brother and daughter all thought it was an April Fool's Day gag, until Ted showed up unexpectedly at his brother's car-repair business at 3 p.m. with the winning ticket in-hand.
April 1 started like most other Mondays, with Baumgartner driving from Freeport to his job as a furniture repair specialist at Ingrassia Interior Elements in Rockford. While driving to work, the radio reported that a $50 million Powerball grand prize ticket had been sold in Freeport the previous Saturday. "I had a strong feeling then and there that I was the winner," said Baumgartner. "I mean, anything's possible."
About 90 minutes after arriving at work, Baumgartner checked his $4 quick pick ticket and discovered he was, indeed, the sole winner of the largest Powerball prize ever awarded in Illinois. Baumgartner went to his bosses, the furniture store owners, told them the news and showed them the winning ticket. They laughed and asked Baumgartner if he was going to quit his job of three years; he didn't really respond to his bosses' question.
"I worked for another hour or so, tying up some loose ends, and then I said, 'that's it, I'm done.' I may end up forfeiting a portion of my last paycheck," Baumgartner said, "but that's OK."
In the meantime texts and phone calls to family members met with unexpected resistance. A text to daughter Emily elicited this text response: "April Fool's Joke????" A follow-up phone call helped persuade his daughter that, as incredible as it sounded, Baumgartner was telling the truth.
For a man with suddenly-acquired, nearly unlimited means, Baumgartner's future plans for the money are modest and conservative. He has met with a financial planner, and will invest the bulk of his prize money in safe investments that yield consistent, moderate income. For himself, a new house that includes a few acres of hunting land will be his most extravagant purchase. "I'm going to create my own, miniature Duck Dynasty," he said, referring to the popular cable TV show.
Other planned purchases include a new Dodge Challenger, and, at some point, a small fishing boat will be in his future. Baumgartner also plans to purchase the house he currently rents and give it to his 68-year-old mother, Lauretta, who is retired and currently lives in a Freeport apartment. Brother Todd's car repair facility, Baumgartner Automotive, will benefit from Ted's purchase/gift of new wheel-alignment equipment.
Baumgartner's three children will all get a helping hand from dad: daughter Laura, 22, and her husband, Zach, will see the mortgage on their modest, 4-bedroom house disappear; daughter Emily, 19, a college student, will have a new 4-door sedan in her future; and son Tedd, 16, will get to drive a 1952 Chevy pickup truck that been in the family for three generations and will soon be restored to pristine condition, thanks to the Lottery windfall.
The pickup truck belonged to the family of Baumgartner's wife, Janine, who passed nearly 3 years ago from ovarian cancer. To honor his wife, Baumgartner will make a generous contribution to help fund research into finding a cure for this "silent killer" that claims the lives of some 14,000 women annually in the United States.
"The Lottery has a special section on its website providing advice to major prize winners seeking effective counsel and planning for large prizes. It sounds like Ted has a well-conceived plan in place," said Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones. "I hope the Baumgartners will invite me to take a spin in their restored 1952 Chevy pickup?my grandfather had a similar pickup that he would use to drive the grandchildren to his country store."
Baumgartner elected to receive his prize in a one-time payment of $31,367,629. After required state and federal withholding, the check he will receive will be for $21,957.340. The check will arrive in about four weeks.
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