Columbiana woman wins $3.9 million in Biloxi

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Paying off bills, helping her children and giving to her church … that’s the way Ruth Carlee, 64, of the Kingdom Community near Columbiana plans to spend the $2.6 million dollars she will receive as a result of her luck at a Biloxi, Miss., casino.

Carlee actually won $3.9 million after putting $20 in the IGT Wheel of Fortune progressive quarter slot machine there last week.

However, Carlee said, she was offered the option of getting the $3.9 million over 20 years or the $2.6 million in a lump sum now.

&uot;I’m 64, my husband (Floyd) is 68, what would you do?&uot; she asked. Holding the letter in her hand with her reply, she said she’s going for the lump amount.

Carlee does want some things for herself, such as a small RV (recreational vehicle) &uot;because we can’t back a big one up.&uot;

She said she wants to use it to visit &uot;grandkids&uot; in Laredo, Texas. She said she has just paid off her new car. And she said her husband’s dream is a roll-off wrecker for his personal use because he likes to tinker with old cars.

She said Floyd just &uot;wants to stay at home in his garage.&uot;

Carlee also said she just wants to fix her house.

&uot;I want a bigger kitchen,&uot; she said with a contagious smile.

Carlee worked for U.S. Steel for 23 years, but it was no cushy indoor job. She

shoveled, drove a tractor, operated a crane and was a recorder who kept up with the steel that came in and out of the mill.

Presently, she works in quality control

for Mail South in Helena.

&uot;I like it. I work one week out of the month. I like all of the people over there,&uot; she said. She is still unsure whether she will keep her job.

Carlee said her sister-in-law and

brother-in-law (Glenda and William Caffee of Tuscaloosa) had some free rooms at the Silver Star in Philadelphia, Miss., and at the Grand Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

She said the she and her husband shared a single room with two double beds with the in-laws at both hotels.

After a short stay at the Silver Star where she took $500 in and left $250 ahead, the group moved on to the Grand.

Because she and her husband had enjoyed Casino Magic in Biloxi on their anniversary last year, Carlee said she asked the group &uot;Let’s go over there.&uot;

She said Floyd was playing a 50-cent machine while she went on to the Wheel of Fortune and put in $20, which is 80 quarters.

She said she had won up to 121 credits when she heard the machine hit &uot;clunk, clunk, clunk&uot; straight across.

Suddenly, she said, lights and alarms began to sound.

She said when she saw the prize amount, &uot;I thought it was three million quarters. That’s a lot of quarters.&uot;

But a lady standing next to her said, &uot;I think that’s 3 million dollars.&uot;

Carlee said: &uot;I thought she was crazy.

&uot;They took that machine apart to make sure it had not been tampered with,&uot; she said.

Carlee said she called her son, Stevie Carlee, and he didn’t believe her.

She said she called her sister-in-law Kay Lovett, who thought she was &uot;pulling her leg&uot; and her sister, Joyce Finley Green.

Carlee said she was first given a giant check for $191,000.

Then the casino took her brother-in-law by limousine to retrieve their luggage at the Grand Hotel and put them up in a suite at the Casino Magic Hotel.

&uot;You ain’t seen nothing like it,&uot; she said.

It was on the 20th floor, had a sitting room, a big bedroom, a regular bathroom, agiant bathroom and jacuzzis, she explained.

&uot;Everything I’ve ever got, I’ve had to work for,&uot; Carlee said.

Carlee and her husband had five children, all boys. One of their sons died at age 15.

They have 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

&uot;I pray every night. I was thankful for my retirement … somewhere to live … food.&uot;

She said the Sunday before she left for her fateful trip to Mississippi she attended grandparents day at her church and wore a pin that said, &uot;In God We Trust.&uot;

She said she had that pin on at the casino and told one of the casino employees, &uot;You see who I trust in.&uot;

Carlee said she used to dream that Ed McMahon would knock on her door with the Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize.

Now, she said, &uot;I am so thankful I can pay my bills, help my kids and do for my church.&uot;

&uot;But, I’d like to be able to just walk down my road, I still want to be able to do that.&uot;