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Video: Millionaire continues to clean up after lottery win

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    >>> today's american story with bob dotson comes from seattle, washington. it's about a lottery winner who bought a time share in las vegas but never went. tire ron curie it seems decided the easy street was not the address he wanted.

    >> reporter: someone has to turn on the lights in life. someone has to do the jobs we take for granted.

    >> good morning. how are you?

    >> reporter: but you think tyron curry would kiss this trash can good-bye.

    >> this is what i was doing when i learned that i won the lottery were five years ago the custodian won the washington state lottery .

    >> i took off running.

    >> reporter: his wife michelle had his winning ticket, worth --

    >> i don't know. it's three or four zeros. too many zeros.

    >> reporter: $3.4 million. he went bowling to celebrate like he's done every wednesday night for 25 years.

    >> he hasn't changed at all, in my mind.

    >> reporter: his bank account may be bigger, but not his life.

    >> push. push. i'm just joe citizen.

    >> reporter: he still lives in a tiny house at the end of a could cul-de-sac, with his wife, grandson, and four other family members.

    >> we're in the middle of bankruptcy.

    >> reporter: when they won the lottery. that big check bought them out of debt but they spent little else. all you did with your house is put in a heat pump and siding?

    >> and a driveway.

    >> reporter: for a car that carries him to work, five years later. some students were worried he might quit.

    >> i'm going to miss you like crazy .

    >> reporter: but he's not a guy to give up on a job. during the vietnam war the former navy boilerman shipped out to fight seven times. tyrone , you could be sleeping at 4:00 in the morning.

    >> you could be doing stuff. that's my philosophy.

    >> good morning.

    >> reporter: five generations have grown up around tyrone since he came home from war and started taking care of kids.

    >> sometimes the lunch at school is probably the only meal they get.

    >> reporter: most people in this neighborhood don't have a lot of money. tyrone always wanted to be a teacher but he became a janitor after budget cuts eliminated his assistant teaching position. that was 35 years ago. he never went looking for another classroom because he found a better one at a second job out back.

    >> go back one.

    >> reporter: he coaches the evergreen high school track team .

    >> there you go. that's much better.

    >> reporter: here is where tyrone decided to splurge. he's building his team a state-of-the-art track this summer.

    >> i'm getting excited. it's been a long time.

    >> reporter: costs him $40,000.

    >> good morning.

    >> reporter: so he's buying more lottery tickets.

    >> i'm not done.

    >> reporter: the tennis team has 100 students trying to crowd on to four courts. tyrone dreams of building more. doesn't care about the odds. when else in your life have you been that lucky?

    >> life is lucky.

    >> reporter: and when it's not, tyrone feels it's the janitor's job to fix it.

    >> thank you.

    >> reporter: his mother died of a heart attack just before his graduation this spring.

    >> my family is in shambles, so i'm kind of flaunderring. i don't know what to do.

    >> reporter: the honors student was just dragging his pen across paper. until his track coach taught him perseverance.

    >> holding on, dealing with the cards you're dealt with, and just powering through really.

    >> reporter: tyrone put his arm around you and watched you 100 yards down the track. what did he say?

    >> he just wanted me to know what he was there and i didn't have to feel alone.

    >> reporter: his father was not around, so tyrone offered to pay for his college.

    >> tyrone curry, track coach, janitor, i am never going to forget him.

    >> reporter: the millionaire who cares more for other people's dreams than he does his own.

    >> that's what we want to see tomorrow.

    >> reporter: the luckiest man alive. for "today," bob dotson , nbc news, with an american story in seattle, washington.

    >> wow. what a beautiful story.

    >> really is. every time you thought tyrone was doing enough, he did more and more.

    >> quietly.

    >> yeah.

    >> not asking for attention.

    >> american hero .

    >> thank you for bob dotson for bringing us that store rinchts just ahead, more on the not guilty verdict in this casey anthony murder trial. we're going to break things down with our legal team. savannah guthrie and star jones will join us.

TODAY contributor
updated 7/6/2011 9:21:48 AM ET 2011-07-06T13:21:48

Someone has to turn on the lights in life. Someone has to do the jobs we take for granted. But you’d think Tyrone Curry would kiss his trash sack goodbye.

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Five years ago, the Evergreen High School custodian won the Washington State Lottery’s Quinto game. “I was dumping garbage,” he says. “Just like today. This is where I was when I found out I won the jackpot and took off running."

His wife, Michelle had his winning ticket — worth, “I don't know,” she said when she called him. “It’s got a three, a four and too many zeroes.  I can’t count that high.”


To celebrate, Tyrone went bowling, like he’s done every Wednesday night for 25 years. His friend and teammate Kevin Johnson says Tyrone hasn't changed at all. His bank account may be bigger, but not his life.

“I’m just Joe Citizen,” the quiet custodian says. He still lives in a tiny house at the end of a cul-de-sacin Seattle with his wife, a 2-year-old grandson, two stepsons and two in-laws — mother and daughter.

“My mom was the mother of the neighborhood. All the kids came to our house, so that’s why my home is open, too. People come, they eat, and they have fun. Before I won the money, I struggled. Sometimes I fell behind, but I always remember my mom’s words: ‘You can have somethin’, but that person next to you might not have anything. If you look out for that someone, they’ll look out for you.’ ”

Tyrone’s wife, Michelle, touches his hand. “We were in the middle of bankruptcy when we won the lottery.” 

Still going to work
That big check bought them out of debt. They signed up for a time-share in Las Vegas. “They call us and say, ‘When you gonna come visit?’ ” Tyrone chuckles. “It really isn’t in our makeup.  We don't even go out to dinner. We cook at home.”

He did put a new heat pump in his small house, added vinyl siding, a fence and a new driveway for the car that still carries him to work, five years after his big win.

Most folks figured he'd quit, but Tyrone is not a guy to give up on a job. During the Vietnam War, the former Navy boilerman shipped out to the fight — seven times.

At 4 in the morning, he could be sleeping instead of raising the American flag outside Evergreen High. But he ducks his head and smiles. “Nah. You need to be doing stuff: That’s my philosophy.”

Most people inthe White Center neighborhood don't have a lot of money. “Sometimes the lunch I help serve here at school is probably the only meal they get,” Tyrone says of the students.

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Second job
Five generations have grown up around him since he came home from war and started taking care of kids. Budget cuts eliminated Tyrone's teaching assistant's job 35 years ago, so he stayed on as a janitor. He never went looking for another classroom because he found a better one — and a second job — out back. 

You see, Tyrone isn’t just the Evergreen High School custodian; he also coaches the track team. And that’s where he decided to splurge with his lottery winnings.

“I’m getting excited!” he says, watching runners circling toward him on the school’s old cinder track. This summer he’s building them a new one. State-of-the-art. Cost him 40,000 bucks. 

“I’m not done,” he chuckles. Tyrone buys more lottery tickets every week. “Our tennis coach, she has, like, a hundred kids tryin' to play on four courts.” Tyrone dreams of building more.  Doesn’t care about the odds. “Life is lucky!” he says. And when it’s not, Tyrone feels it falls to the janitor to fix it.   

For instance, his track team captain, DeVante Botello, is having a tough time. The 18-year-old's mother died of a heart attack, just before his graduation.

“We were really close," DeVante says. “Her death left a void at home. I slept in the living room after her heart attack and woke up waiting to go help her.”

But she was gone. “My family is in shambles. I’m kind of floundering. I don’t know what to do.”

‘A real hero’
The honor student was just dragging his pen across paper, until his track coach showed him how to play the game of life. “He taught me perseverance,” DeVante says. “How to hold on and deal with the cards you're dealt. ‘Power through,’ ” Coach said. “ ‘Life is hard.’ ”

DeVante's eyes glisten. “Coach has this soft chuckle and then a nod. That power nod gets me every time. He just wanted to let me know that he was there for me.”  He swallows hard. “Coach said I didn't have to feel alone.”

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When life throws curves, people often dwell on the terrible things that happen. They isolate themselves in grief. Tyrone asked DeVante to notice those who were willing to put their hands on his shoulders and help him get through the ordeal. The boy’s father was not around. Tyrone offered to pay for college.

“When I was coming up, I just had my mom,” Tyrone says with a shrug. “So I'm here for him.”

“Coach is probably the most amazing man I'm ever gonna meet,” DeVante says. “He's my hero — a real hero.” One who hasn't gone to the moon or scored a touchdown, doesn't have a reality show, hasn't written a book. “Why do you need to write a book when you just live the way he does and reaches out and affects so many lives?” DeVante asks.

DeVante's plans now include college. “Whatever I do with my life is gonna be in honor of Tyrone. He is always gonna live on through my actions. I wish I was as good as him. I work for it. I work for it every day. Tyrone Curry, track coach, janitor. I’m never going to forget him.” The millionaire who cares more for other people's dreams than he does his own — the luckiest man alive.

For more information or to contact the Curry's or DeVante Botello:

Catherine Carbone Rogers
Public Relations
Evergreen High School
White Center
830 SW 116TH ST

Know someone who would make a great American Story with Bob Dotson? Drop a note in my mailbox by clicking here .

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