Steve and Caroline West were typical small-town Oregon parents until October 19, 2005, when a lottery ticket that Caroline's mom, Frances Chaney, purchased came up in a $340 million drawing. Suddenly, the Wests and the Chaneys were some of the biggest lottery winners in history!
Although they purchased things like houses, cars and vacations to Italy and Hawaii, Caroline and Steve say they haven't changed all that much. "If we were to walk down the street, people wouldn't have a clue," Caroline says. "We still wear jeans and tennis shoes."
The Wests say they haven't forgotten what things were like before, when they were living paycheck to paycheck. Caroline kept her job driving a school bus, and the family still clips coupons. "We like to feel we're getting a deal," Steve says.
They say they have avoided the problems—divorce, bankruptcy and health issues—that beset many lottery winners. "Once we checked the numbers and it looked like we had won, we went online. And there's a website—You've Won the Lottery, What Do You Do Now?" Steve says. "It gave a lot of good information."
So how has life changed for these big winners? "We're debt-free," Steve says.
"It gives you a huge sense of security in knowing you don't have to worry about day-to-day anymore," Frances adds.