Larry's Lucky Lunch
05/29/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
Even before he got out of bed, Ian Ross knew that May 10 wasn't just another morning. "I wondered why my dad didn't wake me up for work," says the 21-year-old Central Michigan University student, who spends summers at home in the Detroit suburb of Utica, Mich., helping his father, Larry, and brother Eric install swimming pools. "My dad said, 'I don't know if we have to go to work today. I don't know if we ever have to go to work again.' "
Indeed, whether Larry Ross, 47, ever does anything involving a pool other than lounging beside one will be entirely up to him. The reason he didn't wake Ian was that he had just gotten off the phone with Michigan State Lottery officials, who confirmed that one of the 98 $1 easy-pick tickets he had bought the day before at a local convenience store—he'd put down a $100 bill for his $1.97 Polish sausage lunch and had taken the change in lottery tickets—was one of the two winners to split the $363 million Big Game jackpot, the largest ever in North America. (The other ticket was sold at a gas station in Lake Zurich, Ill., but the owner has yet to come forward.) "Right then I invented a new dance," says Ross. "It's called the Lotto Dance."
Although Ross says he doesn't "really understand the buying power of all this money yet," he realizes that the lump-sum payment he chose after consulting with a financial adviser he declines to name—about $60 million after taxes—"will have an impact on the family for generations." (In addition to Ian, who just finished his sophomore year at Central Michigan, and Eric, 25—who is married and the father of a 22-month-old son—Ross and his wife, Nancy, 46, a homemaker, have a daughter, Shannon, 12.)
The windfall has already turned the family's lives upside down. After the first flurry of congratulatory calls, they unplugged the phone, arranged for someone to take care of their cocker spaniel Daisy and left their modest four-bedroom brick home 20 miles north of Detroit, which they have already offered for sale. "The security and safety of my family is a big concern," Ross explains. "I don't blame them for wanting to move—I'd move too," says neighbor John Leysen, 58. "I'm happy for them. They're hardworking, down-to-earth people."
Ross says the family isn't planning any major purchases for 90 days. But they have begun pondering the possibilities: paying off their mortgage and other bills, donating money to charity and building a new house somewhere in their home state, this time maybe with a pool. (Their old backyard was on a septic field, making installation impossible.) Larry will also be taking his first vacation since he started his business 13 years ago. Shannon has her eyes on a moped, and Nancy wants the car of her dreams—a purple Jaguar. Still, "we'll be the same people," insists Larry, who pledges that all the pools ordered from him this season will be installed. "We'll just have more toys."
John Slania in Utica