Julie Leach, Fiberglass Factory Employee, Wins $310.5 Million Powerball

by Elizabeth Chuck /  / Updated 

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A fiberglass factory employee in Michigan is $310.5 million richer — which is rich enough, she has decided, to quit her job.

Julie Leach, 50, was working an overnight shift at Aquatic Bathware as a supervisor on what she called a "nasty, dirty job" when she found out while on a break at McDonald's that she had won last Wednesday's Powerball drawing.

"I quit automatically. I was done," she said, laughing, at a news conference Tuesday.

Leach purchased the winning ticket at a Shell gas station in her hometown of Three Rivers — a community in southwestern Michigan about 30 miles south of Kalamazoo — along with a cup of coffee around 6:30 p.m. She then headed into her job at the factory, where she has worked for almost 23 years.

She said she was "having a really bad night at work" before she stepped out and checked her ticket.

It was over a Cheeseburger Value Meal that Leach compared her ticket to the winning numbers, looking in disbelief as each number matched up, she told NBC's Kevin Tibbles after the press conference.

When she later found out she was the only winner, "I started shaking."

Holding the oversized check from the Michigan Lottery, she said: "It's crazy. Just unreal."

Leach regularly buys about 20 dollars' worth of lottery tickets, nabbing extra tickets when the pot gets really large. She said she also participates in a lottery pool at work.

But she "never thought it would happen" — that she would actually win.

Julie Leach won the latest Powerball.
Julie Leach won the latest Powerball.NBC News

Nonetheless, she and Vaughn Avery, her companion of 36 years — with whom she has three children and 11 grandchildren — had talked around campfires about what they would do if they ever did strike it rich.

"We want to buy a bunch of land," Leach said, and bring all the kids and grandkids together and "have our own little community."

Leach said when she returned home that night, she woke up Avery, who works at a metal casting company. The two discussed their good fortune, and then he told her he had to go back to sleep before work the next day.

"I said, 'Are you crazy? We don't have to work anymore!'" she said. She also joked that while she has always been happy without being married, if he proposed now, "he'd have to sign a prenup."

The two told NBC News they feel lucky to have won.

"I feel blessed. Scared to death, but blessed. I don't want it to be a curse, I want it to be a blessing," Leach said.

In addition to buying a big plot of land in Michigan, the couple plans to pay off their mortgage and car payments, and to travel.

Avery, with tears in his eyes, said he was happy he could take care of his kids financially. Asked where he and Leach would travel, he smiled and said: "Wherever we want."

As for her job at the fiberglass factory, Leach told NBC News, "I'll go visit, but I don't want to work there no more."

Leach said she will accept the money as one lump sum, and is working with a financial planner. It comes out to about $197 million before taxes.

"We're simple people," she said. "We don't know how to deal with money — that kind of money, anyway."

The winning numbers were 21, 39, 40, 55 and 59, with a Powerball of 17.

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