WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- Long before yesterday, they called themselves "The Lucky 13."
Long before the country was seized by a fevered frenzy of lottery mania, jamming traffic in towns across the country as rabid ticket-buyers waited endlessly in line for a fantastically slim chance at instant riches, they were ponying up a few dollars a week, figuring that someday their luck would change.
Thirteen men of very modest means, assembly-line workers at an industrial parts factory here just north of Columbus, got the winning ticket for the biggest lottery ever, the $295.7 million Powerball lottery jackpot.
"It took a long time to believe we actually hit it," said John Jarrell, one of the 13, a stocky man with a droopy mustache.
He and his wife, Sandy, stood outside their northeast Columbus home wearing black motorcycle T-shirts and jeans and said one of the first things they would buy would be a "hers" Harley-Davidson to match the one Jarrell already has.
"You go from totally excited to scared to death," said Jarrell, 34. "We're really getting nervous and scared what we're going to do with all this money."
Jarrell was the first of the 13 to publicly identify himself yesterday. The rest of the men had decided to remain anonymous as long as they could, said a lawyer, Laurence Sturtz, who spoke on their behalf.
"They're trying to figure out what they're going to do with the rest of their lives," Sturtz said. "These are guys who decided every night whether they were going to work overtime or go home and be with their family. They don't have to do that anymore."
The men, ranging in age from 20 to 50, work in the machine shop at Automation Tooling Systems in Westerville. They christened themselves "The Lucky 13" years ago when they began playing the Ohio lottery every week, Sturtz said. At various times, he said, other workers had wanted to join, but the baker's dozen kept their club exclusive.
This week, the men each kicked in $10 to buy 130 tickets for Wednesday's drawing, the only time they had played Powerball besides May's big jackpot. One of them drove 100 miles to a Speedway gas station and convenience store in Richmond, Ind., the nearest store selling tickets, and made copies of the stubs for each of his comrades.
The men opted to take their winnings in a lump-sum payment of about $161.5 million, said Indiana lottery officials, who still have to verify the winning ticket. Each expects to collect about $12.42 million before taxes.
Sandy Jarrell saw the winning numbers -- 8, 39, 43, 45, 49, and Powerball 13 -- on television Wednesday night and by midnight, there was a party at the Jarrell's modest house. Yesterday, the couple was buying toys for their children, ages 15, 10 and 8.
But the Lucky 13 went to work yesterday morning, at least to break the news. Sturtz met with them there to give them some advice.
"First we took the ticket to a safety deposit box," he said. "Then we talked about getting a financial adviser, getting legal advice, writing trusts, and finally how to say 'no' to people and how to hang up the phone."
The record Powerball lottery stirred everyday people into pandemonium over a prize that everyone knew was virtually impossible to win, with 80.1 million possible combinations for the jackpot.
The blizzard of ticket-buying was so furious that even the co-creator of Powerball was taken aback. This was not exactly what he had intended, said Edward Stanek, the commissioner of the Iowa Lottery.
"It is inappropriate for someone to wait in line for three to eight hours for a game," Stanek said. "It is inappropriate for someone coming home from work to get caught in a traffic jam trying to exit the freeway or for someone to suffer heat exhaustion waiting to buy a $1 ticket. You would expect those kinds of lines for a Rolling Stones concert or a sporting event, but the lottery is supposed to be more consumer friendly."
At Automation Tooling Systems, which employs about 170 people, excited workers high-fived one another yesterday. Management then ushered the 13 out in a departing lunch crowd they could get past the swarm of reporters and cameramen.
"There's sort of a deer-in-the-headlights feeling all around here today," said Barbara Palmer, an account and administration manager for the company. "Everyone's either shocked because they won or shocked because they didn't win."
She added: "Put out a notice that we're going to need help. I don't think all of them are going to be coming back."
Pub Date: 7/31/98