Kathryn H. Wright was at work when she got a phone call from Ireland yesterday.
The voice over the phone told the 45-year-old Census Bureau statistician who lives in Prince George's County that she had won the "super prize" worth $437,500 in this year's Irish Sweepstakes.
She didn't believe it.
"I thought it was a joke," said Wright, who promptly called an Irish newspaper to double check. When she was told it was true - making her the 12th American to win the sweepstakes in its 47-year history - she promptly called her aunt. The aunt didn't believe it either.
"'Aunt Sadie, Aunt Sadie,'" Sadie Coward recalled Wright screaming at her over the telephone. "'Guess what happened?!'"
"It is someone like her who would luck out on winning something like this," mused Coward, who called The Washington Post herself to verify her niece's story.
Yesterday afternoon, after having a bit to eat and a chance to calm down, Wright took a few minutes to talk to reporters in her modest Oxon Hill apartment.
She noted that she had paid off her car, has no large outstanding debts and lives in an apartment decorated with color-coordinated carpet and drapes, plants, and wispy paintings of forest scenes, proving that "I am already pretty comfortable."
"I want to continue life the way I have, and I don't know what to do with the money," she said.
Wright said she bought the ticket from a coworker, but because of past unlucky experiences with other lotteries, like that offered by Maryland, she did not take the purchase too seriously. She can't remember how much she paid for it or when she bought it.
Wright said she does not plan to quit her job at the Census Bureau, but does plan to use some of her winnings to buy her father a car for his birthday.
"He has been talking about a new car for a long time. Now I can afford to buy him one."
The only other immediate change the sweepstakes money will make on Wright's life, she said, will be the purchase of a new wardrobe. She explained that she loves clothes and, with prices the way they are, it takes winning the sweepstakes to afford them.
Wright, who compiles import and export data for the Census Bureau and earns approximately $30,000 a year, was born and raised in Anacostia. She is a graduate of Dunbar High School and attended Howard University.
Her aunt said because of an illness Wright had been recently talking about retiring.
At her job, coworkers were elated and one said they were "glad Kathryn received the prize money."
The prize, awarded four times a year, is operated by Irish hospitals as a fund-raising tool. This year $1,278,550 will be awarded.
Wright won the "super prize" that became part of the lottery in 1970. Last March, 69-year-old Robert Bennett, of Chesapeake City, Md., won a "super prize" of $680,000.