By Carolyn Barbre
The press conference at Sweet Brier Plaza on Friday, July 23, appeared to be about equal parts lottery winner Charles "Chuck" Bush's relatives, reporters and TV news crews, friends/well-wishers, and city and Lindsay Chamber of Commerce representatives.
As everyone no doubt already knows, Bush, 71, bought the winning California Lottery SuperLotto Plus ticket worth $44 million with $5 in QuickPicks. He has opted to take his winnings in one lump sum that will come to about $17 million after taxes.
Although the press was asked not to break the news until the official announcement, all the local dailies had it on page 1 on Friday morning. Chamber ambassador Jean Hill was greeting everyone at the plaza as time for the press conference, scheduled for 10 a.m., rolled around. "You know every widow woman in Lindsay is going to be after you, but don't forget your friends," she joked about what she said to Bush. She was the one who notified the press and ask that they keep mum about the winner, but that kind of news rarely keeps. The phrase, "spreads like wildfire" comes to mind.
California Lottery official Sid Ramirez said Bush was the biggest winner ever out of Tulare County. "He specifically requested his winning be publicized here to put Lindsay on the map," Ramirez told the reporters. "You can win anywhere but you win where you live. A millionaire was made here in Lindsay." Obviously this was also a major promotion for the California Lottery. Because the press conference was late getting started, a lottery representative walked around passing out free Big Spin scratcher tickets. Chamber ambassador Yonok Warson won $50.
"Luck follows Chuck," Ramirez said, not missing a smidgen of opportunity to sell the Lottery, but nobody minded, especially not Yonok.
"This was the first time I ever play this kind of game. I didn't even know how to play," Yonok said. She said Lily Kaku, who was sitting next to her, informed her she had won. Of course spending $50 is a cinch. Spending $17 million is a bit more challenging.
That was the first question one of the reporters asked Bush, "What will you do with the money?"
"Spend it," the quiet spoken retired saw mill supervisor said matter-of-factly.
"Are you going to stay in Lindsay?" was the next question.
"I have no idea," Bush responded. "I'm going to take it one day at a time." Bush had already planned to sell his home after his wife passed away on May 1. Contrary to reports in one paper, he said he has no plans to move in with other family members. Now, a day later, he decided a houseboat might be just the ticket, or one possibility from the winnings of the ticket.
Ramirez jumped in again and said the winner, an avid fisherman, could now just get out of bed and drop a line over the side of the boat. Would you buy a lottery ticket from this guy? Absolutely. He's a top notch dream merchant. Ramirez also reminded everyone that the Lottery people at the Coachella gas station that sold the ticket would be getting a $220,000 commission. He also knew and told the press that Chuck's son Larry buys lottery tickets once a week while son Kevin buys twice a week.
The winner said he had no regular lottery ticket buying habits, but recalled that his wife used to encourage him to play. "My wife used to tell me, 'You can't win if you don't play,'" he said to the cameras. Earlier he had said it was "more important to me that my kids, grandkids and great grandkids are here." Thirteen relatives were present. Son Kevin and daughter-in-law Mary, counting on fingers and toes, determined dad had 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Dr. Bob Chiurazzi probably expressed the general mood best. "We're all related if you go back far enough. We're all homo sapiens."