Las Vegas winner celebrated

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By Don Pace

The Ross One Stop service station was a sea of colorful Hawaiian shirts Thursday morning.

That’s because the New Mexico Lottery was holding a celebration for the community’s newest millionaire, Joseph Baca, known for his Hawaiian motif. He recently bought a winning $1 million Powerball ticket at the Ross One Stop.

After standing in a long line to purchase tickets Thursday, some would walk over to Baca and rub their tickets on his shirt for luck.

Baca purchased the “Quick-Pick” ticket on Aug. 9 about 20 minutes before sales for that evening’s drawing closed at 8 p.m. Baca matched the five winning white ball numbers worth $200,000, but his prize was increased to $1 million because he added the game’s Power Play option.

After winning the big prize, one would expect Baca to take an exotic cruise or even quit his job. However, Baca is pouring his windfall into his first love, his family-owned radio stations KFUN and KLVF.

“My work is what keeps me going, and I love what I do. My routine hasn’t changed. I still go to bed early and get up at 3 in the morning to be at work,” Baca said.

Baca said he is still trying to take all this in as he realizes the blessings he received and the potential for growing his business.

“We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. I’m putting the money back into the radio station, and I bought the remaining land on KFUN Hill. I believe I now own the most valuable piece of commercial property in Las Vegas, with a beautiful view. There are several types of businesses that I feel would fit nicely surrounded by the panoramic view, for example a chain restaurant or even a hotel, so those are part of my dreams,” Baca said.

Baca said a million dollars can go very quickly, but one can’t be wasteful when he has big dreams.

“I want people to know that we really appreciate all the words of congratulations and everything people have said to us because I look at all their positive words as just part of another blessing. The citizens of Las Vegas have a lot to do with how far Joseph Baca gets because you can’t accomplish anything in this world alone,” Baca said.

Baca said he and his family are grateful that the community has always supported KFUN and KLVF.

“Loretta and I and my family are continuing the tradition of a Heritage station in its service to the community because that’s what Ernie Thwaites, Merle Tucker, Carl Mark, Dennis Mitchell and Will Sims have done in the past. The Baca family wants to continue that tradition,” Baca said.

For her part, Loretta Baca said she is still feeling excited and blessed. She said as they pour the money back into the radio station and move forward, there will always be time for a nice vacation.

“Everybody who has talked to us has said it couldn’t happen to a better couple, and I hope that’s true,” she said.

Kenny Ross, owner of the gas station where the lottery ticket was sold, will get $2,500 from the New Mexico Lottery.

“We are going to reinvest the money in our business by splitting it among our employees, not just the one who sold the ticket,” Ross said.

In the past year, Ross One Stop has sold other tickets paying $192,000 in prizes, including a $125,000 prize from the New Year’s Eve raffle in January.

“I think we’re going to have to start manufacturing tickets in the back,” Ross joked. “We’re selling them like crazy today.”

All net revenues from the sale of lottery games benefit the lottery scholarship program, which provides tuition assistance for New Mexico residents attending the state’s public colleges and universities.

As of the spring 2007 semester, 880 high school graduates from San Miguel County have received $3.4 million. About $3 million in scholarships have been awarded to 1,350 students enrolled at Highlands University and Luna Community College.