THE WINNERS

Is hitting the jackpot all it’s cracked up to be? Four Portland lottery winners say yes. And no.

WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE TO WIN THE LOTTERY? Few among us have not, at some point, indulged in the ultimate fantasy—thanks in no small part to the jaw-dropping amount of money that the Oregon Lottery spends on advertising to fuel our flights of fur-lined fancy. In 2007 alone, $10 million went to pay for print, billboard and TV ads that trumpeted the joys of winning and reminded people that profits from state-sponsored gaming help fund everything from state parks to education.

But to counterpoint those champagne wishes and caviar dreams, we found four Portland-based winners who say that having your lucky numbers drawn can, in fact, be stressful and even a little scary. Sure, they’re loaded—but, for better or worse, suddenly coming into heaps of cash is not what they expected. That old cliché about money not buying happiness? Yep. It’s true.

MARVIN RANSOM | $20.6 Million | July 11, 2007

SPLURGES: IRVINGTON HOUSE, GIFTS OF $30,000 EACH TO SEVEN RELATIVES; HAWAIIAN VACATION

 

After a multi-million-dollar win, most people would march into their boss’s office to deliver the Take this job and shove it! line. But not 43-year-old Marvin Ransom. Five weeks after he won the fifth-largest jackpot in state history, he returned to the kitchen of Stanford’s in Clackamas, and spent the day chopping vegetables and making vats of clam chowder. And no, he has no intention of quitting his $14.25-per-hour job.

“I want my kids to think, ‘OK, my dad came into some money, but he is still going to work,’” he says.

Sitting in the dining room of his Craftsman house in Irvington, which he purchased in August, Ransom recalls the times he has found it difficult to navigate his windfall. “This was all a lot of fun at first,” he says, “but it’s been really overwhelming, too. I’m somebody who likes to keep a normal schedule. I need to feel like a regular guy.” And for the whole of his life, “regular” has meant living paycheck-to-paycheck to provide for his family of seven. During the leanest of times, Ransom even bought a used washer and dryer with a canister of quarters he’d been saving for over 20 years.

The acquisition of wealth has not coincided with an extravagant lifestyle for Ransom and his family, nor does he think it ever will. “We still eat frozen pizza for dinner. We still buy the family-pack meat from Fred Meyer,” he says.