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Evacuee wins big at La. casino.

1/11/2005
It was just Tuesday when Jacquelyn Sherman, an evacuee from New Orleans living with relatives in Opelousas, La., felt the depression sinking in. After more than a month of living with dozens of displaced family members with no real signs of hope on the horizon, Jacquelyn spoke that morning with her niece, Jamie Sherman, about the depression and, together, they prayed.

‘I told my aunt that God works in mysterious ways and that I had prayed that something good would happen for the whole family to be happy,’ Jamie Sherman said.

That ‘something good’ and more would come later that night when Jacquelyn and her sister Clarissa Sherman decided to take some time out for entertainment and a stop at Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino in Lafayette, La. Before she knew what hit her, Jacquelyn went from having practically nothing to being a millionaire.

‘Jacquelyn and I were on our way to Wal-Mart and talked about going to the casino,’ Clarissa Sherman said. ‘She told me that if I needed her she would be at the Wheel of Fortune machine. I received a hysterical call from her telling me that she wanted me to meet her at the machine. When I arrived, she was surrounded by security guards. The first thing I asked her was, 'Did you break these people's machine.' The guards told us that she had won $1 million. I immediately got on the telephone and called the family. They didn't believe me; they thought I was joking.’

Actually, Jacquelyn won a little more than $1.6 million before taxes. She also won some fame as media outlets across the globe began featuring her story of luck throughout the day Wednesday.

‘When it happened I didn't know what was going on,’ Jacquelyn said. ‘I had just put in my $20 in the Wheel of Fortune machine when it hit. My feeling about this win is better than being blessed. Thank you, Lord.’

For Jacquelyn, the win this week is one of a string of blessings she is counting.

The most recent was having a safe haven from the storm in sister Carol Manuel and her husband Herman Manuel Sr., who moved to Opelousas just a year ago. The first was recovery from an aneurysm that nearly took her life 10 years ago.

‘Jacquelyn ... was in a semi-coma for three months, until surgery on her brain. After surgery, she lost 10% of her short-term memory,’ Clarissa said. ‘Her long-term memory is excellent. This is her first blessing to be here today and get her second blessing of winning this money. I hope she continues to receive more blessings.’

Jacquelyn is the fifth out of seven children born and raised in New Orleans where, until Katrina hit, she lived with her longtime boyfriend, Anderson Carter, and had worked for more than 30 years as a librarian for the city of New Orleans. After suffering the aneurysm, she was forced to retire. Now, with her newfound riches, she is a little overwhelmed about where to go next.

‘I have to get an attorney and make some decisions about my future,’ she said Wednesday from a news conference at the racetrack. ‘It hasn't all sunk in right now. I'm tired. We were up very late last night and back here very early. I plan to go home right now and rest, take a nap. I have so many thoughts going through my mind about what to do and how to do it.’

Jacquelyn's win is the single largest jackpot won since the opening of the casino.

‘This is the most exciting thing that could happen for Ms. Sherman. Lady luck has blessed Jacquelyn,’ said Mike Howard, the track's general manager. ‘This is great for the industry, the property and our form of entertainment. It's like catching lightning in a jar.’
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