Middle River man claims $36 million Big Game prize; Winning lottery ticket purchased at laundry


At the Twin Rivers Laundry yesterday, the buzz was all about could-have-been, should-have-been and why-wasn't-it-me, after Maryland Lottery officials announced that the winning ticket for the $36 million Big Game jackpot was purchased in the Middle River coin-operated laundry.

But it was Fred Albert Wise Jr. of Middle River who picked the magic numbers 07-16-18-35-47 and 23 and walked away with the prize. Choosing the cash option, Wise will take home $18.3 million all at once.

"I'm shaking and sweating. I still can't believe it," said Wise, 41, who is known as "Butch" by his friends. "My mom cried. My sister cried. I'm going to buy myself a house, buy my mom and dad a house and take care of my family. And I'll probably go on vacation."

As for that $12-an-hour bricklayer's job that he's been toiling at for 15 years, Wise will start sleeping in each morning.

Lottery officials said this is the second top-tier Big Game-winning ticket sold in Baltimore County and the fifth in Maryland since the inception of the Big Game in September 1997. The odds of winning the Big Game are 1 in 76 million, with players from six other states: Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia.

"This is a very exciting time for lottery players," said state lottery director Buddy Roogow. "As the Big Game jackpot escalates higher and quicker, it is wonderful to see so many Marylanders winning."

In May, George and Celia Poteet of Millersville won a $60 million Big Game jackpot. They took three weeks to claim the prize.

But Wise, who bought just one ticket at Twin Rivers Laundry at 3: 35 p.m. Tuesday, stepped up yesterday afternoon to make his claim after his sister, Debbie Waite, called him at a work site to let him know about the winning numbers.

"She called here first to get the numbers confirmed," said laundry owner Pauline Gross, whose business will receive $10,000 for selling the winning ticket. "I read them to her and then she asked me to read them again. Then she said, 'My God. He's won.'

"It couldn't happen to a nicer guy," Gross added. "He comes in every day. He plays his numbers. He teases. He tells his jokes. He messes with all of us. He annoys all of us. We ask him if he'll go home. He says no, and then we all have a good laugh."

For the record, Wise says he's never done a load of laundry at Twin Rivers.

When not buying his niece and nephew snowballs in the summertime, Wise is usually playing the numbers 711 and 9206 in the daily lottery, said laundry workers Kasia Kondracki and Ann Lewandowski, who are still debating who sold Wise the winning ticket.

"Oh yeah, he's such a regular we know his numbers," Kondracki said. "I can't believe I owe him 50 cents for a soda."

Wise plans on quickly moving out of his two-bedroom apartment in Middle River. His vacation destination is still unknown, but the options are unlimited, he said, since he's never been further than Busch Gardens in Virginia.

And what about all those friends out there who are trying to get longtime bachelor Wise -- with his newfound wealth -- married?

"Oh no. I'm staying single," Wise said, chuckling. "I might be rich, but I ain't stupid."

Pub Date: 9/23/99

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