DEARBORN, Mo. — Cindy and Mark Hill were high school sweethearts. They graduated from North Platte High School in Dearborn a year apart in the late 1970s.
Yesterday morning they were back, in a school gym full of students, friends and family, to go public as winners of half of a record $588 million Powerball jackpot. Missouri Lottery officials handed them an oversized mock check made out for $293,750,000.
Instead of taking that amount stretched over 29 years, the Hills plan to take a lump sum of $192 million. After state and federal taxes, they will be left with, by the rough calculations of lottery officials, $136,585,489. And 56 cents.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty good Christmas,” said Cindy, 51.
She and Mark, who married in 1990, grew up in Dearborn, a Platte County town of about 500 roughly halfway between Kansas City and St. Joseph, Mo. They have three grown sons — Jason, 28, Cody, 30, and Jarod, 31 — and a 6-year-old daughter, Jaiden.
In and out of work the last few years, “it has really been rough,” Cindy said. “But we survived.”
She was laid off from her job as an office manager in June 2010. After taking off a year to spend time with Jaiden, who started first grade this fall, she started looking for work.
She had a telephone job interview scheduled for Thursday morning, but in the hoopla she missed the call. She hasn’t had time to call back.
Mark, 52, who had been out of work himself, started a job in February as a mechanic on the night shift at the Hillshire Brands meat processing plant in St. Joseph.
Those nights are over, he said.
Cindy said Mark gave her the money to buy tickets before Wednesday night’s drawing. He told her, “Here’s $10. Go buy 10 lottery tickets,” she said.
She had to explain to him that Powerball tickets are $2 each.
Cindy said she bought their tickets about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. The numbers were quick picks spit out by the lottery computer.
She left the strip of paper in her car overnight.
“And now that I know it was the winner, I shouldn’t have done that,” she said.
On Thursday morning, when lottery officials announced that one of the winning tickets had been purchased in Dearborn, Cindy decided it was time to check theirs.
“I didn’t have my glasses and I was thinking, ‘Is that the right numbers? Is that the right numbers?’” she said. “I was shaking.”
Overnight, that scrap of paper had grown into a mountain of money.
She phoned Mark and exclaimed, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
Then she drove to her mother-in-law’s house to meet him.
“I said, ‘Aren’t you excited?’” Cindy said. “He goes, ‘I really have got to look at this. You have got to show it to me.’”
The couple said they have been setting up meetings “to handle the funds and whatnot.”
Mark plans to keep driving his old pickup, Cindy said, but he has been talking about a red Camaro.
Jaiden, whom the couple adopted from China, has never been to a beach. That will change soon, Cindy said.
“We want to take her someplace where she can put her toes in the sand,” she said.
But the Hills plan to continue living in the Dearborn-Camden Point area in Platte County. They’ll be happy “if people will respect our privacy,” Cindy said.
“We will still go down to the (Cook’s) Corner Cafe for breakfast or for fish day.”
They plan to pay for college for their four granddaughters and their four nieces and nephews. They’re thinking about going to China, Ireland, Disneyland — “wherever the wind takes us,” Cindy said.
They will make donations to charities that support adoption and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. They will set up a local scholarship fund in the name of Mark’s father. And they are considering adopting another child from China.
Mostly they hope to maintain normal lives.
“We are as common as anybody,” Cindy said. “We just have a little bit more money.”