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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK
Charlady cleans up $294m jackpot
Geraldine Williams
Williams could not afford to retire... until now
A 67-year-old cleaning lady has won the second-largest jackpot ever awarded to a single person in North America.

Geraldine Williams, who worked on after her retirement to make ends meet, won the $294m prize in a multi-state draw in the US.

"I can't believe it's me," she told a news conference.

Her award will be reduced to $117.6m after taxes, but Mrs Williams said she planned to share it with her children and some charities, and to travel.

"I'm a golfer, so I can take some lessons now," she added.

No proposal

She stepped forward to claim her money a week after the winning numbers were drawn.

She recalled how she stared at her winning numbers on television, clutching her winning ticket and pleading: "Oh, God! Oh, God! Let it be! Let it be!"

Her boyfriend was with her at the time. Asked whether he had proposed to her yet, she laughed and said "no".

Mrs Williams, of Lowell, Massachusetts, cleaned people's homes after retiring as a janitor at the nearby university.

She said she had intended to fulfil her appointment to clean a client's house this week, until she was told she had been booked in to see a financial adviser in Boston.

The grandmother of eight said she planned to stay in the town she had lived in for the past 40 years.

Neighbours described her as a lovely person who took care of the elderly local people.

Difficult secret

"If I know Gerry, she'll still want to go and take care of them," one said.

Mrs Williams said she had found the past week difficult, trying to keep the win a secret while she assembled lawyers and financial advisers.

"It's horrible. I don't like lying. I don't like sneaking around," she said.

"I did go to the mall yesterday and try to pick up some clothes to wear. But I was just so nervous I didn't really enjoy shopping."

The largest jackpot ever scooped by a single winner in North America was the $314.9m won by Jack Whitaker of West Virginia on Christmas Day 2002.

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