RED BUD, IL (KTVI) - After nearly three weeks of anticipation and speculation, Red Bud, Illinois residents can put names and faces to the mystery winners of the Mega Millions record jackpot ticket sold in their hometown last month.
A retired couple, Merle and Patricia Butler, were introduced as winners of the "largest prize in the history of the Illinois Lottery" Wednesday morning. Dozens of photographers and reporters filled the historic city council chamber at Red Bud's City Hall on Market St. Illinois Lottery Supt. Michael Jones presented the couple with a symbolic check for their 1/3 share of the national prize of $656 million. They were the last winners to come forward, but the only ones to do so publicly.
Red Bud is a small town, population 3,700 and 40 miles southeast of St. Louis. The downtown maintains its historic character. Brick buildings, some with wrought iron balconies, line Market St. City hall and a restored Opera House are among them. "We were just a little corner of the world; now the world knows who we really are," said Red Bud Mayor Tim Lowry as he thanked the media crowding his city hall for the announcement.
The Butlers, who are still making financial arrangements for their windfall, will receive $218, 666,667 minus taxes withheld by the IRS. The final check should total $158 million.
Merle Butler bought the winning ticket as a $3 quick pick ticket at the Moto Mart in Red Bud. He said his wife did not believe they had won at first. "She kind of looked at me funny and I say 'no, we won' then she started giggling and she giggled for about four hours I think," Butler said.
After staying up almost all night to find out how many winning numbers there were across the country, the Butlers took their prize ticket to their local bank to place it in a lock box. One of his acquaintances at the bank said to him, "Oh, I guess you come over to put your ticket away." Butler responded, " Yeah I won this thing and I got to get this thing put away... just laughed it off and she doesn't know until right now that I really had that ticket in there."
The couple told their children and several friends about their good luck, but managed to keep the news secret from the rest of their small town. Much of their time was spent finding legal and financial advisers to help manage the winnings.
"It was just very exciting and we were meeting with a lot of people just not here in town so it keeps you busy going back and forth and we still have babysitting things to do," said Patricia Butler adding, "we've been hardly here at home very much at all."
The couple chose not to do individual interviews with reporters, only answering questions during a brief news conference at City Hall. Merle Butler explained he has a new full time job trying to plan for the future. He said he is using the Northern Trust firm to assist them.
They indicated they hope to do some good with their winnings in the future, but plan to take as much as a year to think about what that may be.
Butler described himself as growing up in Red Bud. "It's a nice comfortable family oriented community and we're happy that we're giving some publicity now and we're happy for all the people here and we really enjoy living here," he said. They have no intention of leaving their home town. "We've lived here a long time so we don't plan on doing anything else," he said.
Butler, age 65, retired as a computer analyst from General American Life Insurance in St. Louis. His wife, age 62, retired from the Edward Jones Company IT department nearly five years ago. A press release from the Illinois Lottery said they had been married 41 years, have two children and grandchildren.
Here's the full press conference with the Red Bud, IL. Mega Millions Lotto winners:
- Pictures: Moto Mart Gets $500,000 For Selling Winning Mega Millions Ticket
- Moto Mart Cashing In On Winning Mega Millions Ticket
- City Of Red Bud Reacts To Lottery Winners