Dave and Erika Harig stayed true to their values when they won more than $61 million in the 2013 lottery. It changed everything.
The couple from Gretna, Neb., a community on the outskirts of Omaha where Dave Harig is now a volunteer firefighter, splurged on a new home, several vintage cars and several ocean cruises after they both quit their jobs.
But nine years later, they are still living as they always have, staying in their community, keeping up with church, family and friends, and teaching their children to work hard for a living despite any financial gains. which may arise in their path.
Many other winners were down on their luck, suffering personal setbacks and lawsuits or falling victim to scammers. The last major jackpot winner came on Friday, when a single ticket sold in Illinois matched the $1.337 billion Mega Millions prize. Illinois is among the states where winners of more than $250,000 can remain anonymous.
Dave Harig, an Air Force veteran who worked in aircraft maintenance, says keeping things simple probably saved him and his family the hassles and tragedies that have befallen other big winners.
Almost overnight, the Harrig family’s mailbox was filled with letters with difficult stories: sick children, lost jobs, burned houses.
Dave Harig said they ignored them all and focused on their own family and charities.
They didn’t even touch the principal amount of their winnings until just a few years ago when they used it to fund the soon-to-open new firefighting museum in Gretna.
“We have better things, a bigger house and more than ever before. But we’re the same, and my wife and I keep each other in check,” said Dave Harig, encouraging future lottery winners to invest wisely, choose a national investment advisor over a local one, and avoid advisors who try to sell financial products.
They ignored the false rumors circulating about them, believing that his wife had run off with the doctor at some point and that he had a lawyer girlfriend. Their four children were bullied at school.
“We’re still learning, but it’s helped us continue to work together as a team,” he said of himself and his wife.