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updated: 3/8/2011 5:01 PM

Lottery winner recalls his spending spree

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PALOS HEIGHTS -- Ten years after he and his wife won $64 million in the "Big Game" lottery, Alex Snelius wishes he'd won more money.

The 73-year-old Palos Heights man doesn't want to replace his 2001 Lincoln Town Car. Nor does he want a bigger home (he'd actually prefer something much smaller).

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"I wish I'd won a billion dollars so I could keep everyone happy," said Snelius, a retired truck mechanic originally from Lithuania. Snelius opted for a single $18.5 million payment back in September 2000, rather than get 26 annual payments.

In the just-released movie "Lottery Ticket," rap artist Bow Wow plays a young man from the projects who must survive a three-day weekend after his greedy neighbors find out he's holding a winning lottery ticket.

Snelius said his windfall has been both a blessing and a curse -- he has lost friends who borrowed money and never paid him back, and he says he has received "thousands" of requests from strangers who need cash for everything from house payments to fancy weddings. But when he has been able to, giving money away is the best part about winning the lottery, he said.

It's getting harder these days.

"I'm not completely broke," Snelius said. "I can survive. I had a lot of investments that didn't come through. The stock market went bad, but at my age, I don't care anymore. ... I feel sorry for all of those people who are filthy rich because they cannot take (the money) with them. You come with nothing, and you leave with nothing."

Before the money dwindled, he bought houses for all four of his children and eight other relatives to live in, including paying for a $1.4 million copy of Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion in Palos Heights for his daughter and son-in-law.

"I spent money like it was running through your hands," Snelius said cheerfully.

Sometimes, Snelius would be in a store and watch as a cash-strapped parent had to tell a child there wasn't money to buy the thing the child wanted. Snelius said he was good at spotting a parent in genuine need. Snelius would reach into his wallet, fish out a $100 bill and hand it to the stunned parent.

"It's beyond imagination what a pleasure it is to give," Snelius said.

Before Snelius' wife died in 2004, the couple began donating money to White Sox charities.

"My wife was the biggest (Sox fan)," Snelius said.

Now, every time the Sox score a home run, those charities get $100 and announcer Hawk Harrelson mentions Ursula Snelius' name.

Snelius, who says he has used his winnings to buy a few cars through the years, prefers to drive his 10-year-old Lincoln Town Car.

"Whatever that sweetheart needs, I take care of her," he said.

Snelius says he'd like to sell his four-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot home if he could find a buyer. He says he wants to move back to Burbank, where he and his wife were living before they won the lottery.

"I wanted to see what it was like to live on the other side of the tracks," he said, referring to Palos Heights. "And now I want to go back to where I came from."

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