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MailTribune.com
  • Dollars and Sense

    White City sweepstakes winner takes it one step at a time
  • Not much has changed for John Wyllie, a White City man who hit the jackpot last month.
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  • Not much has changed for John Wyllie, a White City man who hit the jackpot last month.
    Though he won the Publishers Clearing House's $5,000 A Week "Forever" prize on Aug. 31, Wyllie is still living in the same trailer park, hanging out in his dad's workshop.
    "I'm pretty much living like I was before I got the money," he said.
    The 47-year-old received an initial installment of $55,000, but the $5,000-a-week check for the rest of his life won't be rolling in for another month.
    "I couldn't sleep at night for the first week," Wyllie said. "A lady at the bank said I should get a gun to protect myself. Then, I realized that I shouldn't be worrying — I don't have to worry about money anymore."
    Almost half the money Wyllie has received so far went to Uncle Sam and for state taxes. He quit his job, sent two of his kids more than $7,000, bought an inexpensive cellphone and a new computer, and started paying off his student loans. He plans on buying a new Camaro with all the bells and whistles, too.
    He's been searching for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house for himself and his dad, Vernon Wyllie, but the pair have been appalled at local prices. They can't seem to stomach the idea of paying up to $400,000 or assuming a 20- or 30-year mortgage.
    Other than taking his dad to the Old Farmhouse Restaurant for biscuits and gravy, John Wyllie hasn't been celebrating much, either — other than spraying a bottle of champagne handed to him by the Prize Patrol, but that was because he couldn't stand the taste, he said.
    Wyllie said he hasn't been bombarded by people holding their hands out, but he has received some interesting ideas — like one from his daughter, who suggested he should buy a vineyard in France.
    Wyllie also thought about buying the trailer park he's living in, but thought again.
    "I don't know if I want the headache," he said.
    Women haven't been knocking on his door, but Wyllie said he wouldn't mind having a girlfriend or two — a notion that makes his 82-year-old dad shake his head.
    "When you've got those babes on your arm, you can watch that money go," his dad warned. "You'll be back working minimum wage."
    Vernon Wyllie, who enjoys hanging out in his workshop, where he's been restoring a 1965 Plymouth, said he hasn't seen a house yet that he found appealing. He said the houses he's been shown so far are "overkill," and he's a firm believer in not making house payments.
    "He's pretty hard to please," John Wyllie said. "He didn't like this property, and he didn't like that property."
    "I wasn't unappreciative when he offered to buy me a home," his dad said.
    When John Wyllie insisted he wanted to get his father into a nice house with a workshop, his father replied, "It's a father's place to take care of his kids. It's not a kid's place to take care of me."
    Wyllie will be able to pass on his $5,000-a-week legacy to his 23-year-old son, David Stacey, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, according to Publishers Clearing House rules. Wyllie said he's told his son to split the money with his 25-year-old sister, who lives in Seattle.
    Stacey said he was in New Orleans during Hurricane Isaac when he heard the news that his father was a winner.
    "At first, I didn't think it was real," he said. "It was a shock."
    He said his dad has helped him out with a down payment for a new car, and he's hoping to find something that's fuel-efficient.
    Stacey said he would like to go to school, but isn't sure how much his father will help him out.
    "I don't want to ask him," he said. "I would feel kind of weird."
    Wyllie has been married twice to the same woman, but lost track of her and two other children years ago. He had his first child when he was 15 and his wife was 14.
    "My first two kids don't want anything to do with me," he said. "They don't get no money."
    Both father and son debated the merit of donating some of the money to charities.
    "We could feel sorry for the kids down the street, but you can't help the whole world," his dad said. "I'm a great believer in charity begins at home."
    John Wyllie had been entering the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes for more than 20 years, occasionally buying some of the items offered by the company.
    He said he didn't always keep up on the payments for those items, though.
    His dad said when the Prize Patrol showed up at the door, he remembers his son saying, "'I thought you were here because I owed you some money.'"
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.
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