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9.3 million reasons to smile

July 03, 2004|By RYAN C. TUCK

ryant@herald-mail.com

Bernard "Bernie" Bargiel's lifelong passion of playing the lottery never was truly justified until he opened The Herald-Mail on May 30.

Bargiel, 78, of Maugansville, who has been playing the Maryland Lottery "since the game was invented," was looking at the winning numbers for the May 29 $9.3 million Lotto jackpot drawing, and they matched his perfectly.

"We were completely stunned and completely grateful," said his wife, Francis Bargiel, 78.

The Bargiels waited more than a month, but finally brought the winning ticket to the Maryland Lottery Claim Center on Friday. Their daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren, who plan to share the winnings, also came to the claim center.

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The Bargiels said they waited to claim their winnings because "there was a lot to discuss."

Bernard Bargiel, a retired employee of the State of Maryland, has been playing the lottery for years with the intention of winning money for his family to share, said his daughter Annette Plitman, 47, of Olney, N.C.

The couple, who raised three daughters in Maugansville, waited four days before they called their daughters Joan Michel, 51, of Crofton, Md., Plitman, and Teresa Swain, 44, of Maugansville around 11 p.m. to tell them the news.

Plitman said she, her husband, Mark, 47, and her daughters Jodi, 16, and Laura, 13, were doubtful even after hearing the news.

"I said to my husband, 'Do you really think they won?'" she said.

Teresa Swain said she and her husband, Tim, 46, "just started hugging ... we were so thankful."

Jacob Swain, 22, the Bargiels' oldest grandson, had just graduated from Elon University when he heard the news.

"It was probably the most surreal moment in my life," he said. "It hasn't sunk in yet."

Joan Michel and her husband, Ted, 51, kept the news a secret from their son, Andrew, 13, until they arrived Friday in Baltimore.

Andrew said he was sleeping in the car when his mother told him "why the car was parked in front of the Maryland Lottery building."

"That kinda woke me up," Andrew said.

Bernard Bargiel bought his ticket at the Hagerstown Giant Eagle, where he buys his tickets for every drawing, he said.

He even buys from the same store employee, Plitman said.

When asked to reveal the lucky vendor, Bernard Bargiel refused, saying it would ruin his luck.

It was his dream to win the lottery, Annette Plitman said.

Bargiel's grandchildren bought him lottery tickets for Father's Day, not knowing he was hiding a winning ticket, because it's "what you always get him," Plitman said.

According to a Maryland Lottery press release Friday, the Bargiels and their three daughters will share an annual annuity of $372,000, before taxes, for 25 years.

Although the family now can do "all those things we said we'd do if we won," Bernard Bargiel plans to continue buying a ticket for every drawing. He bought a ticket for Friday night's Mega Millions jackpot, which was expected to be at least $280 million.

"We believe lightning can strike twice," Plitman said.

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