Bayside man scores big in Mega Millions lottery

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“My grandmother said ‘a fool and his money soon depart,’ ” the native Brooklynite said in an interview last week. “I was kind of raised up on that.”

By Kathianne Boniello

As a rule, Baysider Herb Williams does not play the lottery.

“My grandmother said ‘a fool and his money soon depart,’ ” the native Brooklynite said in an interview last week. “I was kind of raised up on that.”

It is a good thing for Williams that he decided to listen to his co-workers at the city Housing Authority this past summer instead of his grandmother.

Ten of his colleagues convinced Williams in June to be part of an office Lotto pool, and last month the co-workers cashed in by becoming the first winners of the state’s new Mega Millions game with a $108 million ticket.

The winning numbers were drawn Aug. 27, and the lucky ticket was bought at a newsstand in the lobby of 250 Broadway in Manhattan, where the group works.

In a news release issued by the New York Lottery one winner, Avilla Cockrell of Staten Island, said the group randomly chose the winning numbers that made them all wealthy.

“It was quite a surprise,” said Williams, a 37-year resident of Bayside who is a community operations administrator at the Housing Authority. “I came to work and was told we had a winning ticket — they met me at the door. I didn’t believe it.”

About three weeks after they had won, Williams, a father of two adult daughters, now believes that it happened. But he still has not decided what to do with the $3.6 million windfall he has come into after splitting the winnings with his co-workers and after paying taxes.

“Spending the money is easy,” he said. “Preserving it in a sensible way takes a little concentrat­ion.”

For Williams, who declined to give his age, being a part of Lotto history was “unreal,” he said, especially coming so close to the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The city Housing Authority workers were relocated to 250 Broadway from their offices at 90 Church St. after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“I witnessed that whole thing,” Williams said of the collapse of the World Trade Center. “9/11 was quite devastating to me. When I was watching the World Trade Center, it was unreal — it was like watching science fiction.”

Williams, who lost a distant relative in the attack, said images of the collapse repeated on television also added to his distress over the destruction of the Twin Towers.

“For the next two months people were seeing what I actually witnessed,” he said. “It was very stressful to see it on the television every day.”

But Williams, who has worked for the city in various agencies for about 14 years, would not even have been at 90 Church St. if it were not for a transfer from Queens in July 2001.

“It was a monumental transfer,” said Williams, who worked at the Pomonok Houses in Flushing.

A jazz lover who has played the piano in a professional capacity, Williams said he was content with his pre-millionaire status.

“Before the lottery I was comfortable,” said Williams, who also is an amateur photographer. “I’m taking this in stride because of the fact it’s just more of what I had.”

With plans to retire from the city Housing Authority as early as Oct. 1, Williams also has to decide what he would like to do with his time.

A former Bayside civic leader and past president of the Bayside Republican Club who is now active with New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, Williams could always go back to civic life, but he is taking his time before making any choices.

“This is quite a responsibi­lity,” he said of winning the lottery, “but a joyful responsibi­lity.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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