Calif grandma claims $23M lotto prize just in time

Associated Press Modified: November 3, 2012 at 3:17 am •  Published: November 3, 2012

Marquez initially dismissed calls and texts from friends and family who recognized her in the photo.

"My sister called at 11 o'clock at night and woke me up. She said, 'This girl is you.' I said, 'No, it's not me,' because I hadn't seen it yet," she said.

It wasn't until the next morning that Marquez realized she had bought the winning ticket that would help her mother and her entire family for years to come.

Cervera, a widow who has lived on disability for 20 years, said her family has been through difficult times recently. Last year her 47-year-old son Rudy was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving four teenage children.

"I'd give it all up to have my son here again," she said and began to cry. Her oldest grandson, Rudy Jr., hugged her and the whole family wiped away tears.

"My grandkids are all going to be taken care of, and my (three) daughters," she said. "I'm just so happy. I'm going to buy me a pair of Reeboks."

She also has two adopted sons, ages 5 and 9, who have developmental disabilities.

"A big portion is going to them, so that when I'm gone they'll be OK," she said. "I'm going to take them to Disneyland. I really am! And we're going to pay for everything."

Cervera had only 180 days to claim her prize. If she hadn't acted, the millions would have gone to California schools. A $52 million jackpot winner in Fremont was found in August by a similar public appeal by lottery officials.

In the last fiscal year, more than $20.5 million in cash prizes went unclaimed.

Cervera said she would take a one-time cash payment of $17.8 million.

"I'm not going to be here 30 years from now," she said.