Powerball Win: Fantasy or Nightmare?

The Associated Press
Friday, September 14, 2007; 6:24 AM

MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. -- In his darkest moments, Jack Whittaker has sometimes wondered if winning the nearly $315 million Powerball game was really worth it.

The jackpot that was the stuff of dreams turned into a nightmare: His wife left him and his drug-addicted granddaughter _ his protege and heir _ died. He endured constant requests for money.

Almost five years later, Whittaker is left with things money can't cure: His daughter's cancer, a long list of indiscretions documented in newspapers and court records, and an inability to trust others.

"I don't have any friends," he said in lengthy interview with The Associated Press. "Every friend that I've had, practically, has wanted to borrow money or something and of course, once they borrow money from you, you can't be friends anymore."

Whittaker was a self-made millionaire long before he became a lottery winner, having built a pipeline business worth $17 million. Then he hit the Powerball in December 2002. It was then the largest-single jackpot ever.

The prize was worth $314.9 million. Whittaker opted for the lump-sum payout of $170 million _ $93 million after taxes.

He still has plenty of money. And instead of retiring, the 59-year-old starts his day at 5 a.m., juggling ventures in construction, real estate, used-cars, even movies. Work is the last remnant of his old life.

"Nothing else is normal," he said, sounding simultaneously gruff and sad.

His appearance has changed little. His blue eyes still twinkle when he tells a joke, his cowboy boots are worn from wear, and his grin remains toothless. He's too busy, he says, to pay attention to looks.

Whittaker began working part-time for his father at age 10, pouring cement. At 14, he dropped out of school to work full time. He's owned some kind of business ever since.

"I was accustomed to making big money and making my own money, and I never could get interested in school again after that."

By his own estimate, he's brought water and sewer service to some 100,000 homes and still does some good by providing 200 high-paying jobs.

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