Lottery winner longs for normalcy

Tim Christie / The (Eugene) Register-Guard /

EUGENE — What Terry Hamilton wants most right now is for life to get back to normal, which may be a challenge for the newly minted winner of a $9 million Oregon Lottery jackpot.

Hamilton was laid off from his job a year ago, forcing him and his wife, Shanon, to tighten their belts and live more frugally.

With the help of their winnings, the couple plan to fix up their house in Harrisburg and take some vacations, but “nothing lavish,” he said.

“We just want to be normal people,” he said. “We don’t have ideas of grandeur. We’re grounded people — levelheaded.”

Wearing a black leather jacket and a black ball cap, Hamilton seemed remarkably relaxed for someone whose life has just changed inalterably.

Hamilton, 50, grew up in Springfield. He and Shanon, who grew up in Eugene, have been married for 19 years. Hamilton worked in the Springfield office of a Canadian adhesive manufacturer called Arclin for 26 years, serving as a senior technical sales representative until he was laid off with 15 other employees about a year ago.

“We weathered it pretty good because I prepared,” he said, by putting money away and making sound investments. In addition, Shanon continued to work as an office manager for a Eugene dental practice, he said.

But the layoff forced the Hamiltons to restructure their lives, cutting back on expenses, he said. Three months ago, they disconnected their home telephone to save money.

But Hamilton said he kept playing the lottery, including Oregon Megabucks when jackpots got over $3 million, and Powerball, a multistate lottery game, though he bought fewer tickets.

The week of March 20, he bought a single $2 Quick Pick Megabucks ticket, letting the machine select the numbers. He and Shanon were visiting friends in Portland the night the winning numbers were announced — 2, 3, 4, 10, 12, 24 — but he didn’t have his ticket with him, so he couldn’t check. When he got home and looked at his ticket, he said to himself, “Holy crap — I think I just won the lottery!”

They checked and double-checked the numbers. Terry read the lottery rules, which said winners have 60 days to claim the prize after turning in the ticket.

On Monday, March 22, after a night in which Terry said he got about 15 minutes of sleep, the Hamiltons drove to the Oregon Lottery office in Salem and verified they had a winner. Hamilton knows winning a jackpot can change lives for good and for ill.

“I worry about everything — how the money will change relationships with friends, acquaintances, people in need,” he said. “We’ve already had discussions — we can’t save the world.”