'Prize patrol' check is no joke
$10,000 is a pleasant surprise for W.V. family

Published: Thursday, July 1 1999 12:00 a.m. MDT

Alice Coombs had to talk long and hard to convince her husband there were 10 grand reasons to come home.

Lincoln Coombs, 36, was at his job Wednesday afternoon as office manager of Dyn-Air CFE Services, a subcontractor for Delta Air Lines at Salt Lake City International Airport."It's an emergency. I can't tell you what," Alice told him.

"She was crying. I was afraid it was one of the kids," Lincoln said of Ashley, 2, and Devin, 4 months.

When Lincoln drove up to the Coombs' West Valley home 20 minutes later, he discovered the reason for the urgency and Alice's tears -- of joy, it turned out.

Waiting there was a check for $10,000, courtesy of Publishers Clearing House.

Lincoln was already a winner. The clearing house's "prize patrol" was there at the Coombs' two-bedroom, white frame rambler, along with nine vehicles of local media documenting the big moment.

"Somebody's got to tell me this isn't a joke," Alice said just before Lincoln arrived. "If it is, it's a mean joke.

"Omigosh, Lincoln didn't want to come home. I really had to talk him into it. I mean, things like this just don't happen to people like us."

"Yes, they do," said Scott Merritt, clearing house "prize patroler" who said the Coombs' award was part of a "prize blitz," with 100 checks of $10,000 being presented this week in 33 cities. "This really is for real."

The check formally had to go to Lincoln because he's the addressee on the publisher's mailing list.

By the time he arrived, tension was high with neighbors peeking and staring at the throng gathered on the lawn.

When he whipped into the driveway, Merritt and assistant Dena Mortell stepped forward and handed the Coombses the check; 10 red, yellow, blue and green balloons; 18 long-stemmed red roses from Granny's Flowers in West Valley, and champagne.

In this case -- with a nod to the Coombs' LDS faith -- it was a bottle of Meiers burgundy sparkling juice.

"We didn't want to offend anyone," Merritt said.

By then, Lincoln Coombs was a little unsteady from the circumstances.

"I drove here so fast I spilled soda on my shirt," he said, brushing his chest. "I pulled around the corner and saw the (clearing house) sign on the truck. I thought, 'If this is $10 million, I'm gonna faint.'

"But 10 thousand bucks . . . I'll take that any day. I mean, in a way, it's perfect. Ten million is a lot of responsibility. You'd have to figure out what to do with the relatives and friends.

"This way, we pay our bills with half of it and blow the rest. Then we tell everyone, 'Hey, it's spent.'

"Ten thousand, huh? It's amazing. That's why I'm leaning on this car. This is really gonna come in handy. My wife had to quit her job, so things have been kinda tight."

Alice Coombs had worked as a supervisor at the LDS Humanitarian Service Sort Center, then switched to part-time with Deseret Industries Stores.

"When my baby (Devin) was born, I had to quit completely. Day care is expensive in Salt Lake," she said.

One thing Alice continued was her insistence on filling out the sweepstakes entries. For all the six years the couple has been married, Alice had to persuade Lincoln to send in the entries.

"He always said, 'Oh, why, honey? It's just a waste of time and money. We'd never win,' " Alice said.

"I'm always telling her, 'You're 32-cent-stamping me to death,' " Lincoln said. "I didn't think they actually gave out money."

"It's a millions-to-one shot you get it . . . but someone always does," Merritt said.

"I'm a believer now," Lincoln said.

And what will the Coombs blow half the loot on?

"We have a trip planned to California. We were going to drive. Now maybe we'll fly," Lincoln said. "I've had my eye on a little second-hand pickup. That means Alice would get the van back."

Alice's big score?

"Just bills," she said, smiling.

They agreed to an impromptu celebration.

"We hardly ever eat out," Lincoln said. "But La Caille at Quail Run, here we come."

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