BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
FRESNO -- A Bakersfield mother of five who earlier in life didn't even have enough money to buy diapers or shoes for her children is the winner of Saturday night's $17 million SuperLotto Plus jackpot.
Teresa Serrano shared her story Tuesday afternoon at the California Lottery's Central Valley District Office. Serrano, who was handed an oversized check but won't see her after-tax lump sum of $8.59 million for at least a month, said she selected the winning numbers herself -- though they had no special significance to her.
The first thing the 49-year-old housewife plans to buy with the money is a headstone for the unmarked grave of her late father. There will also be a family pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to give thanks.
Somewhere in between those two she plans to buy a Louis Vuitton purse and a Lexus SUV. Later on, she said, she wants to put her children through college, move the family to San Juan Capistrano and open a tire shop.
"I have many dreams," she told reporters in Spanish.
Everything was part-dream Tuesday. Serrano said she only learned of her winnings Monday morning and still couldn't quite believe it, adding that she had barely eaten since learning that she had hit all six numbers of the jackpot -- 15, 12, 2, 47, 25 and Mega 13.
Serrano grew up in the central western Mexican city of Colima and as a girl moved to the Baja California border town of Tecate, where she said she lived in poverty with her father in a housing project.
"I had a very tough life," she said.
Soon after coming to the United States at the age of 16, she found work in Delano as a grape picker. Getting by was hard until almost eight years ago, when her husband got a $15.80-an-hour job at the IKEA warehouse near the Grapevine. The family has lived in Bakersfield for about 10 years.
Serrano only began playing the lottery about four months ago. After she had her husband, Agustin Landeros Sr., buy four tickets at the Ming Avenue Shell, she did something she had never thought to do before: She placed them by photos of the Virgen de Guadalupe and Pope John Paul II.
"I think God gave me a gift," she said.
Some family members already have plans of their own. Son Agustin Landeros Jr., 23, said he wants to study to become a commercial pilot. Agustin Sr. said relatives in Mexico have weighed in: His niece told him over the phone that she's studying but that she needs a car to get to school.
Two other Bakersfield residents won lottery money Saturday, but it was for the multistate Mega Millions drawing that was to split $640 million among three winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland.
The two Bakersfield winners, who were among 29 winning Mega Millions tickets sold in California, took home $228,000 each. They opted not to be identified.
"We always ask them if they would like to (be identified), and it's up to them. And they chose not to," said Henry Hernandez, supervisor for the California Lottery's Fresno district office. He added that the first winner came in Monday afternoon, the second Tuesday morning.
While the person who claimed the prize Tuesday was "very excited," Hernandez said, the gravity of the event didn't seem to have dawned on the couple who came in Monday.
"I don't think they realized what happened yet," he said. "Just like they were coming in for a doctor's visit -- very calm, nothing special. We get that. Not until they actually see the money, they realize what they won."