Listen to the Numbers

It's been more than five years, but people still talk about the middle-class Rogue Valley family that won the record Powerball jackpot of $340 million.

On Oct. 19, 2005, Bob and Frances Chaney of Jacksonville and their daughter and son-in-law, Carolyn and Steve West of Medford, parlayed $40 worth of tickets into a windfall that still holds the record as Oregon's largest lottery win.

The national record was surpassed in 2006 by a group of Nebraska meat plant employees who split $365 million.

The Chaneys and Wests no longer give interviews about the lottery — by email, phone or otherwise — but their story lives on in two foundations they established with their winnings.

The West Family Foundation and Robert and Frances Chaney Foundation donated some $700,000 to schools, United Way of Jackson County and ACCESS Inc., among other organizations, in 2009, the latest year for which tax filings were available.

The West Family Foundation has awarded grants ranging from playground equipment for a local school to support for agencies that help at-risk children.

The Chaney Foundation focuses on the needs of faith-based and youth-oriented programs, veterans causes and public safety personnel.

Steve West was a 48-year-old Medford landscaper and Bob Chaney a 72-year-old retired security systems operator when the two co-signed the winning ticket. Meeting the family was a highlight for Oregon Lottery workers, says lottery spokesman Chuck Baumann.

"In that particular case it was just very fun," Baumann says. "They were very much your average folks."

The prize was disbursed among nine family members, each of whom opted for a one-time, lump-sum payment. The total cash awarded was $164.4 million, or about $110 million after taxes. (The $340 million total would have been claimed only if the family had chosen the prize option of 30 annual payments.)

Bob Chaney's first major purchase with his winnings of about $34 million was a $50,000 yellow Hummer. Steve West said at the time he hoped to buy a coveted sports car but would continue working as a self-employed landscaper.

The West and Chaney families each bought a house within about a mile of each other and a few new vehicles. Both families traveled a bit, the Wests to Italy and Switzerland with their two daughters, and Chaney on trips with her other four children, family members told the Mail Tribune in 2007 when they announced the formation of their foundations.

Robert Chaney died on Oct. 2, 2006, at the age of 73, from a brain injury he suffered after he fell and hit his head. Frances Chaney said her husband had suffered lingering weakness after he broke his pelvis in 2004, and then badly burned one of his feet. He had diabetes and a history of heart problems, she said.

The Wests' and Chaneys' winnings remain the fourth-largest jackpot in the nation's history, Baumann says.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffypollock@juno.com.


Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.
COUPON OF THE WEEK