This is a truly unbelievable story of some very strange coincidences related to purchases Knudsen made leading up to – and even after – his decision to buy five Mega Millions Quick Picks. The premonition Knudsen had that he just might win a fortune began the day before the draw at a convenience store.
The 53-year-old Calimesa man said he was feeling especially lucky so he bought a $5 Quick Pick at a 7-Eleven store near his home in the largely rural community of about 8,000 people just across the San Bernardino County line in Riverside County.
The first set of numbers on that ticket – 5, 31, 34, 41, 7 and the mega number 74 – turned out to be the luckiest of his life. The next day it won the $180 million Mega Millions Jackpot covering 44 states and the District of Columbia.
The day after that, Knudsen retired from his job as manager of RWC Building Products, a roofing distributor in San Bernardino. He and his wife, Lorie Knudsen, 54, were introduced at a press conference at the California Lottery district office in San Bernardino. The $180 million total is the seventh largest in California history.
The Knudsens took the cash option, $107 million, netting them about $80.25 million after deductions for federal taxes. They plan to use the money to build a home somewhere in the mountains in Southern California, some cars, possibly a condominium in Hawaii and to take care of Lorie’s 83-year-old father, who lives with them.
They also plan to take care of their three grandchildren, daughter and four sons, including a 33-year-old, also named Rick, who has undergone three open-heart surgical procedures.
“Our bucket list got huge,” Rick Knudsen quipped. He said he was inspired to buy the lottery ticket in the midst of a lucky streak in which he made seven purchases over two days, paying even dollar amounts, with no coins as change. “I just had a lot of lucky things happening,” he said. “I’m a numbers guy. I don’t buy (lottery tickets) unless I feel lucky.”
The Knudsens, who have been married throughout their 23-year residency in Calimesa, left town on the day of the lottery draw to stay at a time share in Indio owned by their daughter’s boyfriend’s mother.
It was 8:30 Saturday morning, when Rick Knudsen’s sister called him and said, “Hey, somebody in Calimesa won the Mega Millions. Did you buy a ticket?” “I said, ‘Yes,’” Rick Knudsen recalled. “I looked it up, saw the numbers, I scanned it with my eyes three times. I got this. I told my wife, ‘You need to check this out.’”
Lorie Knudsen, who was holding her grandson at the time, couldn’t believe it at first. When she saw the winning numbers, she said “Oh my gosh. I looked up at him and I just said, ‘You’ve got it.’” At that point, they said, there was a lot of hugging and screaming. “The kids are all hugging,” Lorie Knudsen said. “The grandkids started crying. I said, ‘Are we going to the pool?’ He (Rick) said, ‘No. We’re packing up. We’re going home.” The drive to Calimesa takes about 45 minutes, Rick Knudsen said. “It felt like it took about five hours to get home.” Banks were closed, so Knudsen said he hid the ticket at home.
When he called in to work, where he has been employed since 1979, his bosses doubted him. He said he quickly announced his retirement, but his wife corrected him at the press conference. “At first you thought, ‘Maybe I’ll stay as a consultant,’” she told him. “He’s been there so long. In one sense it was hard to break away, but he’s busier now, it seems like, than when he was working.”
Since winning the lottery, the Knudsens have been approached by lots of people, including “people we haven’t heard from in years,” he said, “but you still hope it’s all good. “We’re just average people,” Rick Knudsen insisted. “We’re young, so we’re going to put it (the lottery winnings) to good use.”