MANATEE -- Former Tropicana executive Martin Gutfreund has never bought a Florida Lottery scratch-off ticket, according to his wife.
But Mary Ruth Gutfreund, Martin's wife of 37 years, does buy the occasional scratch-off and knows how they work. So, when the mood hit her on the afternoon of Oct. 2, she bought a pair of "100 X The Cash" scratch-offs for $25 each from assistant manager Jason Stanford's crew at Beachway Publix, 7310 Manatee Ave. W.
Mary Ruth likes that game, having previously won two $100 prizes and one $50 payoff from 100 X The Cash.
This time she won $1 million.
"The fourth number I scratched was a 22 and one of the eight winning numbers on the top of the ticket was a 22," Mary Ruth said Sunday. "Underneath the 22 I scratched I saw $1 million. I was in shock for a few seconds but then realized it was true. Martin, however, was not ready to believe."
Mary Ruth walked into the living room of their West Bradenton home and said to Martin: "What would you do if you won $1 million?"
Martin's skeptical reply: "Right, I'm going to win a million."
"Just look," Mary Ruth answered.
"I don't get it," Martin replied, staring at the ticket.
Ticket in hand, still filled with doubt, Martin immediately drove to the Publix supermarket and showed it to Stanford, expecting some explanation why it wasn't really true.
"But Jason's eyes got huge as saucers and a big smile began to spread on his face," Martin said. "He looked at me and said, 'I have never met anyone who won $1 million.'"
The next day, after a trip to Tampa to check the ticket, Martin Gutfreund the skeptic had been all but converted. The clincher came Oct. 7 when he was treated like royalty by the staff at the Florida Lottery main office near downtown Tallahassee.
The Gutfreunds chose to take their prize in one lump sum of roughly $700,138 rather than $40,000 annually for 25 years.
"I'm 71, although Mary Ruth is much younger," said Martin who was vice president of human resources for seven years at Tropicana, which began in 1985, the same year the couple moved to Bradenton.
The Internal Revenue Service took $125,000, leaving the Gutfreunds with roughly $575,000 wired directly into their bank account, Martin said.
For a couple who worked hard and saved all their lives, the money will not make a drastic change.
"It's an unexpected windfall, but we are not going to go out and do anything special," Mary Ruth said. "We're conservative people."
"I've been an executive all my life and enjoyed a good income and we are frugal in our ways," Martin said.
"I don't see any big things happening, other than the grandchildren's college funds."
Martin did trade in his 2002 Hyundai for a brand new Chrysler 300 at Firkins Chrysler Jeep Dodge and Ram.
And don't be surprised if Mary Ruth gets him a bumper sticker for the new Chrysler that says: "My wife knows her scratch-offs!"
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or via Twitter at @ RichardDymond.