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Allen and Violet Large, of Lower Truro, N.S.. The couple donated their multi-million dollar lottery winnings to charities. (Paul Darrow for the Globe and Mail/Paul Darrow for the Globe and Mail)
Allen and Violet Large, of Lower Truro, N.S.. The couple donated their multi-million dollar lottery winnings to charities. (Paul Darrow for the Globe and Mail/Paul Darrow for the Globe and Mail)

Maritime community hits jackpot, with lottery winners in their midst Add to ...

After decades of living modestly, Allen and Violet Large suddenly had the money to fulfill their dreams.

But with $11.25-million in lottery winnings, the retired couple who live near Halifax knew that their dreams were a little different. No sports car, cruise or mansion for them. Instead, they worked quickly to give it away.

"We haven't spent even one penny on ourselves," says Ms. Large, 78. "Why spend money when you already have everything you need?"

Now, four months after cashing in their winning lottery ticket, the money is largely gone and they have little to show for their winnings. Nothing material, that is. But a long list of charities is reaping the benefits of their decision.

The decision caused a stir in the tiny community of Lower Truro and drew media attention from around the world. But the couple doesn't see it as a sacrifice. It didn't matter that the winnings would have allowed purchases impossible on working-class savings.

The couple drives the same five-year-old truck and 13-year-old car. There is neither microwave nor voicemail in their 19th-century home. The Larges are content with what they have. So when they hit the jackpot in July, it didn't take them long to conclude that others needed the money more.

"We wanted to look after our community and make sure they all had some," explains Mr. Large, who is 75.

The couple kept about two per cent for themselves, in case of emergency, and split the rest between immediate family and charities. They are unclear about the tax implications, but say they will deal with that next year.

They won't get into exact figures but say that recipients range from animal-protection agencies to churches to health-care services. Ms. Large was recently undergoing chemotherapy and facilities where she received her treatment got an extra chunk, her husband says.

A few possible scammers sniffed around but quickly were shut down.

"If anyone phoned, I would say, 'If you're looking for the money, it's all gone,'" Mr. Large says. "I wouldn't be sour or harsh but would say it gently."

On the long list of those groups that did get money is their church, Old Barns United.

"I've been surprised, they haven't even splurged in one instance that I've heard," said Reverend Ian Harrison, who said their gift will go toward keeping up the old building. "That says a lot about their character, their selflessness."

The couple has lived modestly since meeting in Ontario, where both where working at the time, at a dance.

"She was wearing a tartan skirt and I was wearing a tartan shirt and I said I must ask that girl for a dance," Mr. Large remembers.

They married in 1974 and continued working - he as a steelworker and welder and she at a cosmetics factory. They often didn't have much money and would stay home a lot. He'd watch television while she read, romance novels mostly.

The couple eventually retired to their native Nova Scotia. Their rural home is just close enough to town that Mr. Large can "crawl back" if he "gets souped," he jokes. "He never does that," his wife interjects, prompting him to add, a touch sheepishly, "it's a local expression."

In July their number came up on a 6/49 draw worth $11,255,272.70. At the time local media quoted them as saying that the win wouldn't change their lives. Instead it changed the lives of many other people.

It's a sharp contrast to the classic lottery story of a winner blowing through sudden wealth and ending up in penury.

"We're not big livers, we don't live high," Ms. Large says. "We're country. We weren't born with a silver spoon in our mouths."

How much money does one person need?

Reactions to winning the lottery - grasping or spendthrift, greedy or generous - are all over the map. Here are a few standouts:

"Too much for two people."

Ray and Barbara Wragg of Sheffield, England, decided that the 7.6-million pounds (now about $12.4-million Canadian) they won in 2000 was excessive. In a flurry of donations, the bulk of it to local hospitals, they had given away nearly 80 per cent of it by 2006.

We don't want your money

A churchgoer, Floridian Robert Powell wanted to follow Biblical tithing instructions after winning a 2008 jackpot worth about $6-million (U.S.). But somewhat to his surprise, First Baptist Orange Park did not want his money. Saying that they would not take lottery winnings, Pastor David Tarkington politely declined $600,000.

"Totally a nightmare"

William "Bud" Post died in 2006, poor and living on food stamps 18 years after winning $16.2-million (U.S.) in a Pennsylvania lottery. The jackpot set off a chain of events that included his brother being arrested for hiring a hit man and a former girlfriend successfully suing for a share of his winnings. "I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare," he was quoted saying.

Rewarding honesty

On a spring day this year in Okotoks, businessman Malcolm Duncan lost some money. Three times. And each time someone returned it. He ended up taking the money and buying lottery tickets with an eye on sharing his winnings. There's no jackpot ending, but he did split up the $240 he won.

Sources: BBC; First Coast News; bankrate.com; Okotoks Western Wheel

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