We heard recently of the passing of Artis Eldridge who won a Million Dollar SuperPrize back in 1989. Artis was one of the PCH Prize Patrol’s most memorable winners – based not only on what happened at her winning moment but on what we know of her life afterwards.
Artis lived on California’s Mojave Desert – and if that wild setting conjures up the image of a person with pioneer spirit you’ll have an accurate picture of this remarkable woman who, while tiny in stature, was mighty in strength. When she became a Publishers Clearing House winner at age 62 she had already met the challenges of a rough upbringing, polio, a nursing career, widowhood (twice) and six children. In her modest home resided two elderly women who probably would have been homeless had it not been for Artis’ determination to care for them in accordance with her devout faith. She called them “my ladies.”
On a hot dusty day in August 1989 Artis had just seen her Prize Number appear in a PCH TV commercial as the winning number in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes online. Within seconds the Prize Patrol knocked on her door to confirm that she was indeed a Million Dollar SuperPrize winner.
No wonder the video of Artis Eldridge’s Winning Moment shows Artis crying not only in disbelief but RELIEF: she had just declared bankruptcy to save her house. A party quickly got underway in the crowded living room – with champagne and congratulatory phone calls. “This is a day I will never forget,” she told a national TV commercial audience. As we were leaving, I invited Artis to come to our New York headquarters for a deluxe celebration weekend. She allowed that such a trip would be very nice but impossible. “I can’t leave ‘my ladies,’” she said.
A few weeks later business took me to Los Angeles; so I called Artis to see if we could have a West Coast celebration at a fancy restaurant in Hollywood or Beverly Hills. “Oh no,” she replied, implying that was not her style. “If you wanna treat me, you can take me and ‘my ladies’ to Disneyland. That would really be ‘sumpin’.”
So that’s what happened. Artis piled “the ladies” and their wheelchairs into a rattle-trap van (which she had not yet replaced), drove to Anaheim and met me in the Disneyland parking lot. “You push one wheelchair and I’ll push the other,” she commanded. From there we went to the Magic Castle (see photo above), the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and a flower market restaurant for lunch. To cap it off we took “the ladies” (both of whom were stout and none too agile) on the Nemo submarine ride. I tell you, it was not easy negotiating our party down the narrow ladder into the sub’s tight quarters. But what a memorable day it was!
Artis and I kept in touch until one day she called to say that she was now alone, had been diagnosed with a very serious illness and was moving out of her Mojave home. That was the last I heard of her – until this month when her daughter Diana phoned our headquarters to advise us that Artis had died in January 2011.
It turned out that the medical diagnosis — that was given back in the early ‘90’s — was wrong. In the intervening years Artis had lived a very full life dedicated to helping others – naturally. Her favorite cause was a small school and church in Mexicali, Mexico which she visited many times, “rolling up her sleeves” to support the needy youngsters with food and gifts. “She was an amazing woman” recalled Diana. “I miss her very much,” she added – as do her other children, 14 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren!
I hope this story encourages you to enter the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes online or through the mail. If winning a Million Dollar SuperPrize happened for Artis, it can happen for you. And as you can see, the experience of winning doesn’t end with the winning moment; it can last a lifetime.
PCH Prize Patrol Ambassador