Elmer A. Jackola, a career Foreign Service officer working abroad on a classified mission for a U.S. agency he won't name, was in Africa 11 days ago when he got a State Department telex message, telling him he had won $1 million in the D.C. Lottery.
"I thought it was an April Fool's joke," he said yesterday. "It wasn't the first, but it was still April."
Jackola, 45, called his wife, Hattie, in Culpeper, Va., and found that the State Department message was true. But he also found that to collect the first of the $50,000 installments he will receive over the next 20 years he had to come back to the United States, since he had not designated his wife or any of his three children as a proxy when he became one of the two grand-prize winners in the April 15 drawing.
Jackola had not planned to return to the U.S. until next month, and although he could have waited, the State Department allowed him to come back early. Yesterday he walked into the lottery's downtown headquarters and collected the first check, a total of $40,000 after the Internal Revenue Service took a $10,000 bite.
In the few days since his return, Jackola said that numerous people have asked him to buy lottery tickets for them in the future and offered to split any winnings with him. Well-wishers, he said, have kept the telephone ringing constantly. He said he had no immediate plans for the money, other than to help pay for the education of the couple's children.
Hattie Jackola, also 45, said her son Jeff, 10, has already had one unpleasant experience as a result of the family's new-found wealth. She said some of his classmates schemed to "get the rich kid," and one of them slugged Jeff in the face.
As they discussed their good fortune, Mrs. Jackola also demonstrated that ingrained penny-pinching habits can be hard to break, even with new-found wealth in hand. She told her husband that they had to hurry to leave the lottery offices because there was only about 10 minutes left on their parking meter.
But Jackola was not moved by his wife's importunings. "If we can't handle one ticket, I don't know what we can," he joked.