The last Mega Millions lottery winner came forward in Red Bud, Illinois Wednesday to claim his share of the record $656 million grand prize.
Retirees Merle Butler, 65, and his wife Patricia, 62, of Red Bud, Illinois were presented with a ceremonial oversized check for $218,666,667 after nearly three weeks of keeping their big win a secret.
"Hollywood screenwriters couldn’t have scripted a better story," Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones said in a release. “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.
Merle Butler worked for 25 years at General American Life Insurance in St. Louis before retiring about eight years ago, followed three years later by his wife Patricia, who had previously worked in the IT department for Edward Jones, according to the release. Butler bought his winning $3 Quick Pick ticket at the Red Bud Moto Mart on Wednesday, March 28.
The Moto Mart received a $500,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket, according to the Illinois Lottery.
Merle and Patricia, married 41 years, say they will invest the money and financially assist their two children and grand children, but Merle told the Illinois Lottery they "don’t anticipate our day-to-day lives changing all that much because of the win.”
Patricia says they respect the responsibility of winning the substantial sum and hope to do "some real good" with their winnings, according to the release.
“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,” Merle Butler said in a release. “We just happened to hit it big in the Lottery."
The Butlers' win marks Illinois' largest; the previous record prize was won by the Kainz family in Lake County, who raked in $183 million in the Big Game.
Residents of the small Illinois town of Red Bud in Randolph County has a population of less than 4,000, but officials say they're excited to see the neighborhood get some attention.
"Red Bud is the kind of town you think of when you see the movie, 'It’s a Wonderful Life,'" Red Bud Mayor Tim Lowry said in a release. "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 Illinois Lottery has helped raise more than $31.5 million in money for Illinois schools and other capital projects across the state. The recent launch of the nation's first online ticket sale system generated $9,000 in sales on the day it went live.