Jessica A. Botelho
GEEZ, LOUISE: Louise White, 81, of Newport was announced Tuesday morning as the winner of last month’s $336.4-million PowerBall prize. Officials said the jackpot was the third biggest in PowerBall’s 20-year history and the largest ever won in Rhode Island.
Louise White became an instant celebrity Tuesday, her name perhaps as well known as that of the governor in just a matter of minutes.
And it’s no wonder. The 81-year-old Newporter stepped forward to be identified as the winner of last month’s $336.4-million PowerBall, the third largest jackpot in PowerBall’s 20-year history and the largest ever won in Rhode Island.
The cost of her three “quick pick plays” was $9.
More than 30 members of the media crammed into a small pressroom at the Rhode Island Lottery headquarters on Pontiac Avenue in Cranston Tuesday to hear what White, a regular lottery player who tucked the winning ticket in her Bible and slept with it post-win, had to say of her victory.
“I’m very happy and very proud, and this will make my family very happy,” she said.
Her attorneys, Gregory F. Fater, as well as Jason Kurland, accompanied White and informed the crowd that they would continue the news conference on her behalf. They did not release much information about her background except that she comes from a large family. They did not confirm nor deny rumors stemming from a Newport Daily News report that she is related to acclaimed Newport jazz musician, LeRoy White, 63. However, other news outlets, including the Providence Journal, confirmed she is his mother.
In a statement lawyers released, White attributes the win to a family member’s craving for rainbow sherbet.
She joined LeRoy on a shopping trip to the Stop & Shop Supermarket on Bellevue Avenue on Feb. 11 to buy the iced indulgence, as well as a PowerBall ticket. Little did she know, the real treat would be her big win.
“It was unbelievable,” White said in the release. “None of us can believe it yet. We’re excited, very blessed and will determine in the coming months how we’ll spend the money but we know we’ll always have rainbow sherbert [sic].”
Later that night, White was home listening to the news while her family feasted on the sherbet. She heard the drawing and wrote down the numbers, but missed a few and waited 10 minutes to hear them a second time.
At that point, she didn’t immediately check her ticket. But, when she did shortly afterward, she became excited as she noticed the numbers matched.
“Is anybody awake – I want you to come look at something,” White hollered to her family.
She handed over the numbers she wrote and they confirmed that the numbers were identical.
They decided to check the numbers online at RILOT.com. Again, the numbers, 1-10-37-52-57, were the same.
“We still didn’t believe it, so we turned off the computer and turned it back on and went back to the website and my numbers were still there,” White said in the statement. “We hugged each other and jumped up and down screaming! Then, I was told to sign it quick! We hid the ticket in the Bible and went for breakfast on Sunday since we couldn’t do anything with it. But, we did carry the Bible with us for safe keeping.”
White’s attorneys said she plans to take a one-time lump sum payment of $210 million, which is the highest amount ever for PowerBall. The state will earn nearly $14.7 million in taxes on the prize in a lump-sum payment, said Governor Lincoln Chafee, who attended the conference. Chafee said he was in New Hampshire when he learned a Rhode Islander won.
“People were talking about it all over the country and had their eyes here on Rhode Island,” he said before turning to White and saying, “Not only were you lucky, you were very smart. You took your time and hired professionals [and] we applaud you.”
White claimed the ticket in the name of The Rainbow Sherbert [sic] Trust. This, said Kurland, will give her more privacy and anonymity, as well as allow her to better prepare for tax planning. Fater agreed.
“Accepting the prize requires a lot of planning and expertise and we put together a team of people to help Louise,” said Fater, who is a family friend. “This is a great day for her, this is a great day for Newport and it’s a great day for Rhode Island. [She’s] the salt of the earth. Anyone who takes a lottery ticket and stores it in a Bible is a good person.”
PowerBall is played nationwide in 42 states, as well as in the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. The odds of winning were one in 175,223,510.