PASSAIC, N.J. (AP) — Pedro Quezada‘s neighbors see a lot of themselves in the winner of the $338 million Powerball jackpot: hardworking, a family man, an immigrant, and someone who has known hard times.
That’s why they’re so thrilled that one of their own has finally struck it rich.
Quezada, 44, entered Eagle Liquors store, where his ticket was sold, late Monday afternoon. The Passaic store’s owner ran Quezada’s ticket through the lottery machine and, as a newspaper and television outlets recorded the moment, validated that it was a winner.
“This is super for all of us on this block,” said Eladia Vazquez, who has lived across the street from Quezada’s building for the past 25 years. Quezada and his family “deserve it because they are hardworking people.”
Quezada told reporters in Spanish that he was “very happy” and that he intends to help his family.
“I still can’t believe it,” his wife, Ines Sanchez, told The Record in Bergen County. “We never expected it, but thank God.”
The New Jersey Lottery confirmed that the winning ticket was validated at Eagle Liquors at 4:30 p.m. Monday, but officials said they didn’t yet know the winner’s name.
The numbers drawn Saturday were 17, 29, 31, 52, 53 and Powerball 31. A lump sum payout would be $221 million, or about $152 million after taxes. It’s the fourth-largest jackpot in Powerball history.
The Quezada family’s apartment sits at the end of a short dead end block that abuts a highway in Passaic, 15 miles northwest of New York City.
The block has a half-dozen three-story brick apartment buildings on each side, and Vazquez says it’s a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, including what car they drive and what parking space they use.
Alberto Liranzo, who lives two floors below Quezada, said the lottery winner has five children and owns a bodega in Passaic.
Dominican immigrant Jose Gonzalez said he barbecues and plays dominoes with Quezada in the summers in a backyard on their street.
“He sometimes would work from six in the morning to 11 at night, so I did not see him much,” Gonzalez said in Spanish Monday night. “I am happy for him. … I don’t know where he is now but I imagine he will drop by to say hi to his friends.”
Neighbors told The Record that the Quezada family has suffered bad luck in recent years. Two years, ago, thieves broke into their apartment and stole everything from clothing to jewelry. The year before, a fire destroyed much of their bodega, they said.
Now, the family’s luck has changed with their Powerball success.
“It’s a blessing for the neighborhood,” resident Daphne Robinson told The Record. “It gives people hope that there is a blessing somewhere, for somebody.”
Richard Delgado, who lives down the block from Quezada’s building, also described Quezada as “a hard worker, like all of us here. We all get up in the morning and go to work.”
Delgado said he got up Sunday morning and was going to take his dog for a walk when he heard the radio announce the Powerball results.
“When I heard there was one winner and it was in New Jersey, I immediately went and checked my tickets,” Delgado said. “I wanted to be that guy.”
When asked what it would be like to suddenly win such a large amount, Delgado said a person would have to set priorities.
“No. 1 is your health, because if you don’t have that, the rest doesn’t matter,” he said. “No. 2 is your family. You take care of your own and live the rest of your life in peace. That’s all anyone can do.”
No one had won the Powerball jackpot since early February, when Dave Honeywell in Virginia bought the winning ticket and elected a cash lump sum for his $217 million jackpot.
The largest Powerball jackpot ever came in at $587.5 million in November. The winning numbers were picked on two different tickets — one by a couple in Missouri and the other by an Arizona man — and the jackpot was split.
Nebraska still holds the record for the largest Powerball jackpot won on a single ticket — $365 million — by eight workers at a Lincoln meatpacking plant in February 2006.
Powerball is played in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The chance of matching all five numbers and the Powerball number is about 1 in 175 million.