When Holly Lahti found out she won $190 million in the Mega Millions Lottery, she kept her cool. For a moment or two.
At first, “she was very quiet about it,” said Leasa Moore, night manager at Ady’s Convenience Store & Car Wash on Seltice Way in Post Falls, where the winning ticket was sold.
When Lahti, of Rathdrum, went to the store to check her numbers last week, the employees took her in the back to tell her she won.
She was calm at first, but in the backroom Lahti could no longer contain her excitement. She asked if anyone was in the store. When she was told there wasn’t, Moore said she asked, “Can I scream?”
And scream, she did.
“She just had to let it go,” Moore said. “She was just ecstatic.”
Lahti had let the computer pick the numbers for her, a ticket known as a “quick pick.”
Moore said Lahti, who used to work at a nearby bank, is a regular at the convenience store.
“She comes in at least weekly,” she said. “She never played the lotto before, from what I understand.”
Moore described Lahti as a “very well-rounded individual.”
“She’s got a good head on her shoulders,” she said. “(She’s) very well put together. I think she’ll do really well with this. She’ll do good things.”
Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson announced Wednesday Lahti was the winner of half the $380 million jackpot, the second largest jackpot in history. The convenience store will receive $50,000.
He called Lahti “a delightful individual,” but said she has asked for privacy; the lottery isn’t releasing any more information about her.
Lahti turned her winning ticket over to the lottery office in Boise on Tuesday at the end of the day, and the lottery confirmed that it is the winner. It hasn’t yet paid her, however, Anderson said. She has 60 days to decide whether she wants to take the 26 payments over 25 years, or the smaller lump sum of $120 million, which would equal $81 million after state and federal income taxes.
“She’s given us an indication that she’s willing to talk to the media when she’s got her affairs in order,” Anderson said. “As you might expect, there’s a lot of things that Ms. Lahti has to get in order.” “There’s lots of curious people who want to know who the winner is. This is a big deal.”
Her name was being provided because it is a matter of public record, he said.
If Lahti takes the lump sum payment, the state of Idaho will receive $9.36 million in state income taxes.
Anderson said, “Once people hear this, Ady’s is going to become the luckiest place in northern Idaho.”
And lottery ticket sales have increased there since people found out the winning ticket was sold in Post Falls, Moore said.
“They’ve been buying a lot,” she said. “I think it’s probably going to be pretty wild for awhile.”
Lahti is splitting the $380 million jackpot with an Ephrata, Wash., couple, Jim and Carolyn McCullar, who also picked the winning numbers and came forward last week.
Katie Stillinger said she worked with Lahti at Inland Northwest Bank in Post Falls for several years and said Lahti “really deserves” the money she won.
“She’s a very, very sweet girl. She has a wonderful personality,” said Stillinger, who was a branch manager while Lahti was a teller in new accounts. She said Lahti is a single mother of two young children. “She’s had a hard time raising them by herself and she will do wonderful things with (her winnings).”
“She’s very bubbly and always laughing,” Stillinger said of Lahti. “She’s always the one that makes everyone smile.”