Former Knox resident's family wins $2 M on scratch off

PLYMOUTH – Ironically, it was just two months ago that Rick Cooper, Jr. was razzed about his comment to “What I’m Thankful For” in the Pilot News Thanksgiving edition. Naturally sarcastic, Cooper said, “I’m thankful that tax time is less than two months away.” After all, he has a transmission to replace in his out-of-commission car.
Wednesday, as Cooper slowly scratched off a Monopoly lottery ticket sitting in his car outside the Handy Dandy gas station in Warsaw, tax refund time couldn’t compare to what was staring this Plymouth man in the face. It was a set of like numbers, with a prize of “$2MIL” under the match.
Cooper, who is still in disbelief that he is Indiana’s newest lottery millionaire, laughed, “I’m still looking forward to taxes this year…however, next year’s taxes probably won’t be as nice.”
It was interesting timing, Cooper said, that the Lasses Brothers Handy Dandy owners were at the station for renovations in Warsaw when he bought the $10 ticket that would soon change his and his family’s lives forever. “They were checking on the renovation progress, and when I went in to verify it, they took pictures and said it was awesome; they were happy they were there,” he said. “My first thought was that I have to remain calm because I have to drive, to get my wife and go to Indianapolis. It’s a lot of stress. I was kind of like her, when I saw it at first I didn’t believe it. And then even though I was sure it was good, it was still hard to believe it.”
After calling in to take the remainder of the day off from Sands Office Equipment Services in Warsaw, Cooper went to pick up his wife from Miller’s Merry Manor and head to lottery headquarters.
“When he called me, he asked what I was doing for lunch,” April Cooper said. “I told him I was eating lunch and why?”
April is a former Knox resident. She grew up here and attended Knox schools.
Rick told his wife that she needed to take the rest of her work day off to accompany him on his trip to Indy. “I said, ‘For what?’ and he said, ‘So we can go to Indianapolis and claim our winning lottery ticket.’”
April said she was hesitant, wondering if he was pulling her leg. She questioned if the amount was $500; $10,000 or… “More than that,” he told her. “I said, ‘How much Rick? And don’t be lying,’ because he always jokes with me,” she said.
When he told her the large amount, April said, “I told him, ‘You’re lying!’ and then I said some other stuff!”
Rick was already on the way back to Plymouth to pick up April when she demanded he show her a picture of the ticket through his cell phone. “He had to prove it. So, I waited, and by this time, people were around my office because my office is up front and they could hear what was going on. I had people waiting around to see my phone and it came through and I still couldn’t believe it. Being a jokester, I could see him trying to prank me with a fake lottery ticket,” April said with a laugh. “The girls were all waiting at the window to see it when he got there.”
“It was a definite shock,” Rick said. “I’ve played that ticket for a long time, so I knew it was good when I saw it, but I didn’t want to get too excited until I got to Indy and heard them say it was a good ticket. I go to the same place to buy the same ticket, and I’ve done it for over a year and a half. I stopped in there today to get a pop after I finished my second service call. I took it to the car, scratched it off and went back in to get confirmation because I couldn’t believe I just matched that number.”
It was all in the numbers, he said. He's passed up opportunities to buy tickets from rolls of 50 that didn't have the number he was aiming for. He only buys cards numbered between 25 to 40; and this winning number, No.36 held this 36-year-old's golden ticket.
Cooper said he chose to take the cash payout instead of the annuity. “If we took the annuity, we would have waited 20 years, and the taxes would have been about $200,000. This way, we have it now. We didn’t have to wait.”
Immediately paid, state taxes were in the amount of $57,125 – or 3.4 percent. “We didn’t make that much combined last year,” Cooper said.
“Then, on the way home, I treated my wife to a wonderful feast… at McDonald’s. Nothing but the best, because we don’t change for nothing!” he laughed. “The only thing we’ve done is increased the chance our kids are going to go to college, and we’re going to be having a house instead of an apartment. We’ve got a lot of things to work on. We’re going to see a financial planner tomorrow and make sure we have the right amount saved back for taxes and we paid enough, and make sure we understand the right tax bracket.”
When it comes to the overwhelming information that goes along with “being a millionaire” Cooper said, “I’ve gotten so much good advice, and the bottom line is when you win, be patient with the money in the beginning and make sure you get the right information from the very get go, and then make a plan of what you’re going to do with it.”
Of the quick adding of zeros to his bank account, he said, “When you don’t have the money you don’t worry about what you’re spending. Now, you have the money and you worry about what you’re spending. We’re going to get the basic necessities that we need for our family, and we’re still working. So, we’re going to live within our means of our income coming in. We won’t have a mortgage and car payment, so the money we have left over is there. Most people – if you don’t have any of that – can survive very well and have the enjoyments of life you want and start a savings with just your income, the extra money in the bank account isn’t going to matter. That’s what our plan is.”
He said they have aspirations to “pay it forward” to those who have helped them over the years, and also in the plans is a family trip to Disney World, as is a new car to carry their large family. “I’m gonna see Mickey Mouse!” exclaimed 2-year-old Olivia. And most of all, the children are excited to have a new little friend with the coming of a new home. Along with Olivia, there is Shelbi, 14; Ricky, 14; Sean, 12; Megan, 12; McKinzi, 10; and Benjamin, 2.
“When we told the kids,” April said, “they were more excited about finding out they could get a puppy than they were about the money. They don’t understand that much about it yet.”
Both Coopers wanted to reassure their employers they are planning to continue to work, even though their bank account is a little more padded than it was this time yesterday. “I love my job, and I’m staying,” she said. And Rick has a little plan of his own: “I will be in the World Series of Poker’s Main Event – I’ve already asked,” he said, smiling at his wife.