ABOVE PHOTO: Pedro Quezada
By Angela Delli Santi
LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — A New Jersey man feels “pure joy” at winning a $338 million Powerball jackpot but has no idea what he will do with the money — except buy a car, to replace his feet as his primary mode of transportation, he said.
Dominican immigrant Pedro Quezada, 45, and his wife, Ines, appeared at New Jersey lottery headquarters Tuesday to officially claim the prize. Both came in jeans, accompanied by four of his eight siblings and two nephews.
The former bodega owner-operator, who came to the United States from the city of Jarabacoa 26 years ago, said his mind is not clear enough yet to figure out how he will use the money or where he might live.
He did say he could use a good car. Asked what kind of car he has now, he said, “My feet.”
Lottery officials said Quezada had decided to accept the winnings in the form of a lump-sum payment worth $221 million, or about $152 million after taxes. It’s the fourth-largest jackpot in Powerball history.
He showed up Monday afternoon at the liquor store in Passaic where he purchased the ticket, not knowing if he held the winner. The ticket was validated at 4:17 p.m., giving him less than 24 hours to weigh his future as a multimillionaire before appearing at the news conference.
He was asked questions in Spanish and English and answered all the questions in Spanish, with a translator standing next to him. He was peppered with questions about he would spend the money.
“It has to change,” he said when asked about how his life would be different now. “Imagine … so much money. But it will not change my heart.”
He said he would share his winnings with family members and would use some to help his community, though he didn’t yet know how. He said his wife of nine years, Ines Sanchez, could have “whatever she wants.”
When he realized he had won, he said, “I felt pure joy, just happiness.”
Up until last year, Quezada had worked 15-hour days at a bodega in his adopted hometown of Passaic, in northern New Jersey. His son now runs the small grocery.
He said his bodega days are over, and given all the money he won, he doesn’t plan to let his son keep working there, either.
The bodega has been robbed in recent years, and there was a fire there.
But on Tuesday, Quezada would not talk about any of the hard times that had befallen him in the past.
“My life has changed,” he said.
When she got the call from him Monday, his wife said: “I had no words. … My heart wanted to come out of my chest.”
“All I can say is I feel very happy that God has blessed us with this prize,” said Sanchez, who is from Tlaxcala, Mexico.
Quezada is the father of five children, ranging in age from 23 to 5. He has one grandchild.
In the Dominican Republic, Eliana Quezada, the winner’s 26-year-old niece, was thrilled by the news of her uncle’s massive windfall.
“One of my aunts called me and told me that my Uncle Pedro won the lotto, then I saw him on TV,” she said Tuesday in Jarabacoa. “I was happy, happy, so I ran into the street!”
The single mother of two children is one of the winner’s few relatives still living in the Dominican Republic. Most migrated to the United States years ago, and she said she hadn’t seen her uncle in about 10 years.
When asked whether she had any expectations now that her lucky uncle was an incredibly wealthy man, Quezada, a manicurist, said she would love for him to bankroll a trip for her to visit the U.S. to see her many relatives.
“I would like my uncle just to take me there to see my family, my grandparents and my uncles,” she said.
The largest Powerball jackpot ever came in at $587.5 million in November. Nebraska still holds the record for the largest Powerball jackpot won on a single ticket — $365 million — by eight workers at a Lincoln meatpacking plant in February 2006.
Powerball is played in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.