Last week, Vancouver couple Claude and Kurt Blanchette-Ebert were struggling financially in a tough economy. This week they are finding out what it's like to be millionaires—multi-multi-millionaires, in fact, because Claude and Kurt won Canada's 50 million dollar Lotto Max.
It couldn't have happened to a nicer pair of guys, or at a better time. Claude (age 52) and Kurt (age 63) have been together for 30 years next month, but were facing financial difficulties. Kurt, who bought the ticket from a Vancouver convenience store, was working as the pastry chef for a small bakery. Claude was a furniture upholster. They were hoping to scrape together enough money to buy a used car for their anniversary.
Now it seems like they'll be going new, eh? Both quit their jobs the day after finding out they had won—Kurt says that when he told his boss at the bakery why he was quitting, the boss "just fell on the ground and rolled around laughing. It was very entertaining." The news came as quite a shock to Claude as well. When Kurt came home from having the winning ticket verified at the convenience store, Claude said he was "beet red." And, "I thought he was going to have a stroke."
Others had similar reactions. Sunil Arora, the clerk who verified the winning ticket, said, "It was so great, so fabulous when we realized he’d won.... He checked his ticket on the checking machine. He couldn’t believe it so he came to me to recheck it." And even though Arora doesn't benefit financially in any way, he was very, very excited to be part of the event. "The first thing I did was phone my family in Delhi,” he said (Arora immigrated to Canada less than two years ago and is saving to bring his wife and children to join him). “It was midnight there, and I woke my whole family up. My son and daughter were so joyous, so happy that such a thing could happen.”
Kurt's initial reaction was a bit more explicit: "The first thing I said was 'holy shit'!" How does one even react to a change that huge? Kurt and Claude are planning to buy a house, and to go shopping, and to take a vacation—something they've never done together. Kurt told the press that he would love to go to the Cote d'Azur, for instance. But, Kurt said, “we’re still the same people.” And who really knows what they'll do next? The change hasn't yet sunk in. "We still don't believe," said Claude. "It's surreal."