April 18, 2012, RED BUD, IL—The Illinois Lottery today presented a ceremonial oversized check to the third and final winners of last month's record Mega Millions prize – Merle and Patricia Butler of Red Bud. The couple, who were able to keep their win a secret for nearly three weeks, came forward at a press conference held in the Red Bud Village Hall to claim their share of the $656 million Mega Millions grand prize. Their $218,666,667 share is the largest prize in Illinois Lottery history.
"Hollywood screenwriters couldn't have scripted a better story," said Lottery Supt. Michael Jones. "A friendly, beautiful town in Illinois; the largest lottery jackpot ever; won by wonderful people. I offer my hearty congratulations to the Butlers, and thank them for participating in the Illinois Lottery, which has helped raise more than $31.5 million in money for Illinois schools and critical capital projects," said Lottery Supt. Michael Jones. "We were here last week to present a bonus check to the owners and employees of Moto Mart, and we are so happy to be here today to present a check for $218.6 million to the Butlers."
"We are just everyday people who have worked hard all our life, who love our family and our city, pay our taxes and try and keep up with all the work that's involved in owning and maintaining a house," said Merle Butler. "We just happened to hit it big in the Lottery. We enjoy spending time with our family and friends, and—believe it or not—don't anticipate our day-to-day lives changing all that much because of the win."
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," said Patricia Butler. "Winning this amount of money is a major responsibility, one we take seriously and will figure out step-by-step as we go along. I'm sure we will be using part of the winnings to do some real good; we just don't know yet how that might manifest itself."
Merle purchased his $3 Quick Pick ticket on Wednesday, March 28 at the Red Bud Moto Mart located at 900 S. Main St. The Illinois-based convenience store chain, which operates 75 convenience stores in six states, received a $500,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket. Moto Mart is giving $50,000 of its Lottery bonus to the employees who work in the Red Bud store. Store manager Denise Metzger has been interviewed by dozens of news media from as far away London and Japan.
Merle worked for General American Life Insurance in St. Louis for 25 years, retiring about eight years ago. Patricia worked for several companies during her professional career, retiring from the Edward Jones IT department nearly five years ago. Merle and Patricia, married 41 years, will safely invest the money and financially assist their two children and grandchildren, perhaps buy a new car and intend to take in a few St. Louis Cardinals games.
"Red Bud is the kind of town you think of when you see the movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" said Red Bud Mayor Tim Lowry. "We're thrilled for the Butlers, whom I've known since I was a small boy, and we're delighted to offer our hospitality to have so many out-of-town guests here today."
The March 30 Mega Millions jackpot of $656 million resulted in three grand prize tickets. The other two winning tickets, already claimed, were sold in Maryland and Kansas. The previous largest Illinois Lottery prize dates back to May 9, 2000, when the Kainz family of Lake County won $183 million in the Big Game, the precursor to Mega Millions.
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