Sixteen county employees won the lottery together, but one of them stole the show.
"It's just happy, happy, happy," Willie Seeley crowed Tuesday and he and 15 co-workers from a New Jersey garage greeted the media with giant replica checks for $86 million — the amount they will split, before taxes, after hitting last week's massive Powerball jackpot.
Some of the winners shared poignant stories — one lost her home to Hurricane Sandy; another is mourning her father, a politician who created the state lottery — but Seeley said they were "a happy bunch."
Sporting a floppy straw hat, a "Duck Dynasty" T-shirt, shades and a ZZ Top-style beard, Seeley quipped, "This is my best outfit."
He said that his first stop after he learned the group had won was the home of his cancer-stricken widowed father, to tell him they wouldn't have to worry about money again.
"I'm just going to continue watching NASCAR racing on Sundays," he said at a raucous Toms River press conference punctuated by hoots and hollers. "Maybe I'll be in my log cabin on multiple acres of land."
Later, Seeley yelled out, "First party's at my cabin!"
Sam Fromkin / New Jersey Lottery via AP
The 16 workers from an Ocean County garage pose with a winner's check from the $448 million Powerball drawing on Wednesday.
On Twitter, some commenters dubbed him "The Dude," after the scruffy, laid-back character played by Jeff Bridges in the movie "The Big Lebowski."
The Ocean County workers, who are calling themselves "Ocean's 16" after the movie franchise, have been buying lottery tickets together for six years. They each chipped in $6 for the Aug. 7 powerball drawing and had one of the three winning tickets — which will net them $3.8 million each after taxes.
The lucky crew includes Barbara Jo Riivald, whose late father, state Sen. John Brown, drafted the legislation that created the state's lottery program.
Her voice full of emotion, she said the only thing she wanted to do after learning she was a millionaire was call her dad, who died in November, 2011.
"Dad is just smiling down," her sister told her.
"My father was bigger than life. He was always my hero," Riivald said. "This is a real special moment."
At least six of the winners were hard-hit by Sandy in October, so the windfall will help them rebuild their lives.
Darlene Riccio lost the apartment she rented for five years, had to crash with her brother for months and eventually got a little place above a storefront.
"The first thing I'm going to do is buy me and my daughter a home and bring my dog back home," she said.
"It has been an extremely rough year," she said. "But when we lost everything, this whole group really pulled together and helped me through."
She said that when she found out about the big win, she was "speechless."
"I thought they were joking with me and it was like the worst joke over," she said.
The worker who realized they had won was Lisa Presutto, who also bought the tickets for the group. She said that on Aug. 8, as she drank her morning coffee, she checked the ticket and couldn't believe her eyes.
"I had to wake my poor husband up — who was no longer poor," she said.
Still in disbelief and shaking, she sent a photo of the winning ticket to another pool member and asked her to double check. She got back a four-letter text: OMFG.
"Then I headed to work," Presutto said.
All the winners were back on the job the next day. Only one of them said he plans to call it quits right away.
"It's just a miracle and shocking," said Joseph Odoardo. "After 34 years and almost retiring last year, this happens and you just don't have another choice."
NBC's Katy Tur and Steve Wende contributed to this story.
First published August 13 2013, 3:16 PM