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Friday, November 14, 1997

First Lotto Texas winner looks back on five years of enjoying jackpot

By DENISE DRAKE / San Antonio Express-News

SCHULENBURG, Texas -- Janie Kallus knows what it's like to be the center of attention. On Nov. 28, 1992, she became the first Lotto Texas millionaire.

As the fifth anniversary of the Texas Lottery neared, she reflected in an interview on how a little luck and some matching numbers changed her life forever.

"I never thought something like this would happen to me," Kallus said. "It's taken some getting used to."

The adjustment to fame started the night she bought $3 worth of tickets from Leo's Stop 'N Shop in her hometown.

Kallus had her own style for choosing the winning six.

"I opened up the Houston Chronicle that afternoon and picked the numbers from other state lotteries. Then I added number 50 since it appeared the most often."

Her method worked magic. That evening she became $21.7 million richer. She recalls writing down the numbers as they appeared on the screen and then comparing them with her ticket.

"I was so happy just to get three numbers. Then I got four, and then five, and I had to hold my breath for number six. I was so shocked when I realized I had won that it took me a long time to come to," she recalled.

The following week felt like a dream for her. After receiving her check and talking briefly to reporters, she felt her mind racing with excitement.

But while the attention was captivating, the thrill of winning was short-lived.

The first year the retired nurse was confronted with numerous requests for money. People from all over the state wrote letters and came to her house wanting to share in her win.

A Houston man wanted Kallus to give him a big check, saying he wanted to buy a tombstone for his mother's grave.

The harassment got so bad she invested in a security system and even a full-time police guard.

At the time she won, Kallus, then 65, said she would use the money to help take care of her 94-year-old mother.

She didn't disclose the investments of her after-tax winnings.

It helped having a community that was protective of her safety, she said. The Schulenburg Police Department and neighbors upheld her request to help her keep a low profile.

"I feel like I could call on them to do anything and they would be there for me," Kallus said.

To return the generosity shown by the community, she has made donations to the organizations that have supported her the most. The Police Department received a new camera for investigations.

The St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church and school also have benefited. Kallus bought a car for the Sisters of St. Rose and a portable organ for the church. She has also donated money for the construction of a new building for the St. Rose Elementary School.

When she went into the hospital during the summer, students sent her handmade cards.

To thank them, Kallus treated the children to cake and ice cream last month.

"They prayed for me and were wonderful," she said.

She has two relatives in Schulenburg -- a married niece with two children. The town's on Interstate 10 about 100 miles east of San Antonio.

While Kallus enjoys making the welfare of her native Schulenburg her first concern, she hasn't forgotten to enjoy some of her winnings. She recently traded in her 1985 Chevrolet Celebrity for something with a little more kick -- a shiny new champagne-colored Cadillac.

Her attention is divided, however, between the car and the one companion that has stood by her from the beginning. Freddy, her black labrador, has been with her 12 years.

She says his spunk was what distinguished him from others in the litter.

Today, that same energetic personality keeps Kallus busy.

"He is a very picky eater. He likes baby carrots and he will eat any salad so long as it doesn't have Italian dressing," she said.

When not spending quality time at home with Freddy, she plays bingo.

She still buys a lotto ticket every now and then, although she says she never would claim the money if she won.

Winning the lotto twice, however, could never compare to being the person who began it all -- the first lotto millionaire.

Kallus said: "There's no other feeling like it. It's overwhelming."

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Distributed by The Associated Press

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