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Luis Salazar: He's The $16 Million Man…He Basks In Spotlight At Age 90

Luis Salazar: He's The $16 Million Man

By Cristina Elías | Sentinel Staff Writer

May 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

Ticket holder.

KISSIMMEE -- Luis Salazar carefully copied the winning lottery numbers off the late TV news; then the 90-year-old man began the ritual of checking his card.

One by one he ticked off the numbers -- 8, 13, 19, 24, 27, 47. Then he checked them again and again.

After nearly half an hour, a stunned Salazar realized he had hit the $16 million jackpot.

"I said, 'What? Do I have four? No, no, wait; I have five,' " the Kissimmee man said Thursday as he showed off his winning ticket at the Winn-Dixie supermarket where he had bought it.

"I called to my son who was watching the baseball game on television and told him, 'Listen, I think I just hit the jackpot,' but he didn't believe me," Salazar said.

At first Luis Salazar Jr. kept watching the ballgame. But when he finally compared his father's lottery card with the winning numbers, he realized to his amazement that they matched.

"Now, what you have to decide is what you are going to do with the money," he told his father.

"I don't know," the elder Salazar replied, but later said he wanted to return to his old hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Salazar said he plans to go to Tallahassee on Monday to claim the jackpot. In the meantime, he has the ticket stashed in a safety-deposit box at a bank.

The one-time purchasing agent for a Puerto Rico cement-distribution company moved to Osceola County 14 years ago.

For three years, he worked as a bagger at the Winn-Dixie in Buenaventura Lakes where he bought his winning ticket, quitting work when he turned 87.

"He comes here every day to purchase a ticket," said Winn-Dixie cashier Jessica Abrams, who usually sells Salazar his tickets.

"He always calls in the morning to check the numbers, and they bring him in the afternoon because he can't drive," Abrams said. "I'm happy for him because he deserves it, but I can't believe that $16 million passed through my hands."

While Salazar was celebrating with his former supermarket co-workers, Casilda Hernandez, 66, congratulated him, then quipped: "He looks like a good candidate for my husband."

Salazar, who Tallahassee officials said may be the oldest person to win the state lottery's top prize, credited "the Lord up there" for his good fortune.

"I always change the numbers," he said.

"But as a matter of duty to my dead wife, I always play a certain number."

Salazar said he will continue to help his family, including his grandchildren and nephews.

He also said he intends to make good on a promise he made more than 10 years ago to the Rev.Vidal Martínez, then-pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Kissimmee.

"There was this fund-raiser for the building of St. Catherine of Siena, and I promised Father that I would donate $100,000," Salazar said. "And he told me, 'Son, where are you going to get that money?'

"Well, I'm going to go back over there and tell him, 'Father, it took me 10 years, but here is the money.' "

$10 Million Man Basks In Spotlight At Age 90

By Susan Jacobson | Sentinel Staff Writer

June 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

Luis Salazar, at 90 the oldest Lotto winner in Florida history, cashed in his ticket Tuesday to collect a $16 million jackpot, lottery officials said.

The Osceola County resident arrived about noon in Tallahassee with family members and met with an unusually large crowd of media, including National Public Radio, a Lotto spokesman said.

Basking in the glow of his newfound celebrity, officials said, he elected to take his winnings in one lump sum of $10,089,377.57 after taxes. Salazar posed with a large mock check and, at times, an even bigger grin. He told reporters he already has bought a new house, and he plans to travel to his native Puerto Rico and give $100,000 to his church.

Salazar bought the ticket May 28 at a Winn-Dixie on Boggy Creek Road in Kissimmee. The store, where he worked as a bagger until he was 87, will receive $10,000 from the state. The winning numbers were 8-13-19-24-27-47.

The oldest previous Lotto winner was Anne Scheider of Stillman Valley, Ill., who was 85 when she split a $6.28 million jackpot with two friends. They bought their ticket at a Publix in Largo.

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