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Saturday, February 28, 1998
San Antonio family claims $47 million Lotto
By CHIP BROWN / Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN (AP) -- If Billy and Joanette Cowsert run out of things
to do after claiming the second-largest Lotto Texas jackpot won
by a single ticketholder, they may want to consider standup comedy.
They already appear to have been cast straight out of the television
show "Home Improvement."
Mrs. Cowsert is the upstanding, dutiful wife, mother of two
children and a teacher of dyslexic students in the San Antonio
Independent School District. He is the smart-aleck construction
foreman who rarely shows a serious side.
On Friday, Mrs. Cowsert recalled her reaction to a phone call
from her husband notifying her that he had purchased the only
winning ticket for the $47 million jackpot drawn on Feb. 4.
"I told him I had had a long day at school and that I
wasn't in a joking mood," she said.
"That's not what you said," Cowsert interrupted.
"You called me every name in the book."
"I thought you were lying and I didn't think it was a
very funny joke," she said.
"I said, ÔJoanette, if that's the way you really
feel about it, then sign on the dotted line saying you want absolutely
nothing to do with the ticket,' " he said.
"Then, I believed him," she said.
Even their 15-year-old son, Brandon, had the schtick down.
When asked what his initial reaction was to hearing about the
winning ticket, he deadpanned, "I thought dad was drunk or
When Cowsert, 44, was asked if he had been lucky all his life,
he paused for a moment, appearing on the verge of expressing something
heartfelt before saying, "Yeah, I've won in Las Vegas before."
"And he has a nice family," Mrs. Cowsert, 40, quickly
pitched in, drawing laughs from the gathering of Texas Lottery
Commission employees who attend all of the news conferences involving
The Cowserts on Friday received $1.88 million -- the first
of 25 annual installments -- and said they would invest the money,
build their dream house and send their son and daughter to the
colleges of their choice.
The daughter, Courtney, who is 12, had more pressing needs
on her wish-list.
"I've always wanted a go-cart," she said. "And
a pug-faced dog."
The Cowserts' jackpot is the second largest won by a single
ticketholder. The record belongs to Joe Jones of Mansfield, who
won $53.9 million on Nov. 16, 1994.
While the family lives in San Antonio, Cowsert bought the ticket
in Uvalde while managing a construction job on a ranch.
He said he was so concerned about the ticket's safety, he called
the police in Uvalde to see if anyone knew of a way he could get
the ticket locked in a safety deposit box at a bank after office
He said when an officer arrived at the grocery store where
Cowsert had confirmed his winning numbers (3, 9, 20, 32, 40 and
50), the officer asked to see the Quick Pick ticket.
"He stared at the ticket for a long time and didn't seem
to want to turn it loose," Cowsert said. "I thought,
ÔIf anyone's going to get shot, it's going to be me,' and
I snatched it out of his fingers."
Ultimately, the police officer called a banker who opened up
a vault and allowed Cowsert to put the ticket inside.
Cowsert, whose winning ticket was one of seven Quick Picks
he bought, said he and his wife plan to continue working.
"I told my boss that I hoped winning the lottery wouldn't
affect any future raises I might get," Cowsert said.
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