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Valrico couple strikes Lotto jackpot

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 28, 2002

VALRICO -- Samuel Galando plays the lottery regularly, so it's no surprise that last week, his wife, Agnes, decided to take a gamble.

She plunked down a dollar for a quick pick from Books Plus on W Brandon Boulevard. It won.

The Valrico couple, grandparents in their 70s and avid bowlers, claimed the $4-million jackpot from the Lotto drawing on Saturday, collecting a lump sum of $2.2-million at lottery headquarters in Tallahassee on Friday morning without much fanfare.

The Galandos, who have lived in the Featherock Mobile Home Park for 18 years, didn't reveal much about themselves to lottery officials. They wouldn't say what they plan to do with the money.

They just smiled warmly and made small talk, mentioning four grown children in Pennsylvania.

"There was some lighthearted joking here and there but nothing specific," Florida Lottery spokesman Sam Oliver said. "We talked about their good fortune."

News of their win surprised at least one neighbor, who said she had no idea the couple had won millions. Gloria Huffman said she hadn't seen their car for several days.

"They're wonderful people," said Huffman, who acknowledged that she didn't know much about them, either, except for their love for bowling. "They're very busy and so am I. But I'm happy for them."

At Brandon Crossroads Bowl, where the Galandos have bowled every day for years, employees wondered about their absence from league play on Thursday.

Employees said the Galandos have a few close bowling friends. Sam Galando is known to bowl a perfect 300.

And at Books Plus, workers were celebrating their role in the big win. The morning after the drawing, their computer indicated a winning ticket had been bought there. It was the 60th winning Lotto ticket to be purchased in Hillsborough County since the game was introduced in 1988.

"We all checked our tickets," employee Peter Kulig said.

No winners there, but the business gets a $10,000 retailer bonus for spitting out the winning numbers.

"A lot of people have come in and asked, 'Can lightning strike twice?' " Kulig said. "I tell them, 'Sure!' "

-- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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