After his two years of unemployment benefits recently ran out, retired Marine Deryle House said he and his wife, Liz, were just barely scraping by.

After his two years of unemployment benefits recently ran out, retired Marine Deryle House said he and his wife, Liz, were just barely scraping by.

But things got a whole lot better this month when House became Medford's first winner in the Oregon Lottery's "Win For Life" game — and just in time for the couple's first wedding anniversary on Sept. 19.

The great-grandfather who spent 23 years in the Marine Corps had played the same numbers every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday for two solid years.

"The birth years of me, my wife and my two sons — 44, 50, 71 and 74. The same ones I've been playing for two years," he said Tuesday.

Then, on Sept. 11, the numbers paid off. For his $6 per week investment, he'll now receive a check each week for about $670, the after-tax amount of the $1,000-per-week prize winnings.

House said his initial reactions to seeing his own numbers drawn for the $1,000 per week prize were disbelief and shock, followed by excitement and relief after two years of financial uncertainty.

"I was on my computer and my wife was on hers, so after I saw my numbers had come up I went in and looked at the numbers again on hers," House said.

"Just to be sure, we closed out and went in and pulled it up again and it was just a total shock. We clicked out and came back and checked again and the numbers were still there. My wife said, 'Oh, my god. Oh, my god. No we didn't! No we didn't!'"

After confirming their win at the Medford Purple Parrot where they had purchased the tickets, the couple — he's 60 and she's 65 — made the drive to Salem to fill out paperwork.

Deryle House said the winnings would allow the couple to live comfortably without stressing about money. They plan to slowly pay off debt, keep bills paid and save for a vacation, hopefully within a year or two.

"When we won that, it was just a lifesaver for us, just at the right time," he said. "It was such a relief with me out of work and the unemployment stopped.

"It's just a real blessing."

Prior to winning, Liz House worked part-time at a local bank, a situation the couple remedied nearly as soon as the winning numbers were verified.

Liz House said she "even gave a two-week notice," but was told by her boss she could "just go ahead and quit right then."

"But at least I gave my notice like I was supposed to," she added with a laugh.

Despite more than two decades in the military, five years working a gold mine in Arizona and a decade in real estate and property management, House said his move to the Rogue Valley two years ago, where the couple met, found him down on his luck in a search for employment. He does receive a military pension, but that didn't pay all the bills.

Liz House said the weekly checks are, "in a way, better than winning the large sum."

"This way, we know we're going to have this much money coming in — for as long as he lives anyway," she said.

"We're not millionaires but we're well off. We're lucky we don't have to worry anymore. I used to play another game and we'd pray for just $50,000 because that would get us out of debt and make things easier. This way is much better."

Marlene Meissner, Oregon Lottery public affairs representative, said while all the lottery games have a different appeal, the Win For Life game offers the promise of stability.

"Each of our games is unique but this particular game offers people a chance to get a set amount of money as long as they live," she said.

"And that's pretty special for folks. They really enjoy that."

House is the second $1,000-a-week-for-life winner in 2010, and the 26th winner of the top prize since the game began in 2001.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at