A 44-year-old Des Moines man today (Tuesday) picked up a nearly 55 million dollar check for winning last month’s huge Powerball jackpot. Hugh Hawkins picked all five numbers and the Powerball in the Wednesday, December 14th drawing for a 113-million dollar jackpot. But Hawkins was out of town and didn’t realize he’d won until noon the following Saturday when he walked in the store where he bought the ticket and saw a banner saying the winning ticket had been sold there.
“I just handed the ticket over and said ‘Would you please check this for me?’ Well, it was a match,” Hawkins says. “I haven’t slept in two and a half weeks.”
Hawkins decided against annual payments and instead picked up a one-time, “lump sum” payment, which amounted to nearly 55 million dollars. It’s the highest Lottery prize ever won by an Iowan. For 36 hours, Hawkins kept his good fortune a secret from his wife. Hawkins let his wife take the kids and go to her mother’s birthday party on Saturday. He didn’t tell his wife until 9:30 Sunday night, and it took him a while to convince her he had the winning Powerball ticket. Every number on the winning ticket has some significance in Hawkins’ mind.
“I was thinking about writing a book and telling everyone how I did this,” Hawkins says. “It’s quite quaint.”
He picked his favorite number, the number on his brother’s dirt bike, the birthdate of his wife’s and his oldest son and a random number. Three years ago, Hawkins and his wife, Cindy, decided they’d become a one-income family and she’d stay home with their three kids. This past May, the couple — in Hawkins’ words — “ran out of money” and had to seek bankruptcy protection from four credit card companies. Hawkins says his family’s first goal is to repay all their debts.
“We are extremely pleased and very much overwhelmed with this surprising good fortune,” he said during a news conference at Iowa Lottery headquarters in Des Moines. “This is truly a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous responsibility.”
Hawkins has set up two foundations to hand out grants to start-up companies, non-profit groups or people in need. Hawkins also plans to share his winnings with his friends and family.
“And my family is large,” Hawkins says. He has one brother. His wife has seven brothers and seven sisters. “Lastly, we are going to have some fun,” Hawkins says. “There are definitely some luxury vacations in our future.”
Hawkins, a Michigan native who moved to Des Moines when he was in high school, used to sell European luxury cars and was a financial advisor before becoming a commercial real estate developer. Hawkins plans to keep his job, but won’t work “100 hour weeks” anymore.
“I will not own an alarm clock from this day forward,” Hawkins says. “I literally haven’t slept more than two hours at any night in the last two-and-a-half weeks, so I am very much looking for a good night’s sleep in the very near future.”
Hawkins has a clear memory of buying the winning ticket. Hawkins was on his way of out town and stopped in the store buy a six-pack of pop for his colleagues in Omaha. He spent five-dollars playing Powerball, and picked the winning numbers on his first ticket.
“So, unfortunately, I wasted four dollars,” he jokes.
Hawkins went to the Dahl’s grocery store in the Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines Tuesday afternoon — it’s within walking distance of his home — and thanked the workers there for not revealing his identity to the media. Hawkins doesn’t know if the family will stay in their “Beaverdale brick” house, but he will fulfill one of his children’s wishes soon.
“My kids have been asking us to get a dog and I think we can afford to put up a fence around the back yard,” Hawkins says. “I believe my children will be getting a puppy fairly soon. That’s probably first on the agenda.”