A retired couple from the southern Illinois farming town of Red Bud stepped forward Wednesday to claim their one-third cut of the record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot won nearly three weeks ago. Merle Butler, 65, said he and his wife of 41 years, Patricia, 62, looked at each other and giggled after he calmly told her that they had the winning numbers. After taxes, the couple will get a $110,517,449 lump-sum payment.
Merle Butler, a retired computer analyst at an insurance company, said he has no plans to leave the small town southeast of St. Louis. "It's a really nice place to live. I know pretty much everybody here."
They have no immediate plans other than to craft an investment strategy. "There could possibly be a vacation in there," Merle Butler quipped.
Butler said he buys lottery tickets only when the jackpots grow to more than $100 million. And that's what he did last month, spending $3. The night of March 30, Butler said he wrote down the numbers on a Christmas card envelope as they were broadcast. Then he checked the numbers. And checked again and again before calmly and quietly telling his wife, "We won."
"Are you sure?" asked Patricia Butler, who is a retired programmer analyst for an investment firm.
"Yes, I think so," he said.
They both started giggling and stayed up all night checking their computer repeatedly to make sure they had the numbers right. After breakfast, they went to their bank and put the ticket in a lock box. A longtime employee asked if they were depositing the winning ticket. "That's right," Merle Butler told her. "We got the winner."
The teller laughed, he said.
He said he and his wife told only five people initially and they all kept the secret.
The other two winning tickets were claimed anonymously in Kansas and Maryland. The Illinois Lottery requires, with rare exceptions, that winning ticket holders appear for a news conference and related promotions.
Local bands will Rock the Garden
This summer's Rock the Garden concert in Minneapolis will flip its usual formula on end: Instead of one Twin Cities band to warm things up for a bunch of out-of-towners, there will be four locally rooted groups and one outsider. The June 16 party outside Walker Art Center will feature (in order of appearance): Howler, tUnE-yArDs, Doomtree, Trampled by Turtles and the Hold Steady. This is the first year the event has expanded to five acts, and the first time it has featured a bona-fide hip-hop act. But what's really surprising is the localness of the lineup, announced Wednesday afternoon. While the Hold Steady's New York zip code technically disqualifies it from being a Twin Cities band, four of its five members put in time here.