Photo by Ken Robinson
Coach Tyrone Curry (in the green jacket) watches as members of the Evergreen High School track team go through a jumping drill in preparation for an upcoming meet. Coach Curry is also the school janitor at Evergreen, works two additional jobs and is a millionaire. He won the lottery in 2006 and now plans to refurbish the aging track at Evergreen with his own money. PLEASE CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE FOR MORE. Additional photos by Tim Robinson.

SLIDESHOW: He's the school janitor and a millionaire

Coach Curry will give Evergreen High School a new track using his own money

Tyrone Curry is a busy man. At 60 years old he works three jobs as the janitor at Evergreen High School in Burien, a seating host at Safeco Field and an assistant lead usher at the Seattle Center. In addition, he coaches track and boys and girls basketball at Evergreen. He has a wife at home in White Center and four children – all boys (now men) – that take up the rest of his time.

One more thing about Tyrone Curry: he is a millionaire, courtesy of winning $3.4 million off a $2 ticket in Washington State’s Quinto lottery in June of 2006.

Instead of purchasing vacation properties at far flung destinations and moving in next door to Microsoft executives, Curry has kept his life much as it was before the big win.

“When people ask me, ‘How does it feel to be a millionaire?,’ I just tell them, ‘I’m just Joe Citizen,’” he said. “I do everything that I want to do and I still hang out with the same people I’ve hung out with for 60 years so, you know, it’s nothing different.”

“I’m still working all four jobs, still coaching … the biggest thing was our financial people said, ‘Go out and buy something,’ so we bought two new cars and we know we can quit (work) whenever, but I still like working and I still like doing what I’m doing.”

His latest investment? A $40,000 donation for Evergreen to resurface their running track and put in a new high jump pit, pole vault pit and throwing area for shot, discus and javelin.

Curry often tells the story of a conversation he had with another Evergreen coach before winning the lottery. A regular lottery player, Curry told the coach, “If I win the lottery I’m going to put in a new track here.”

“Ya, Ok, we’ll see,” the coach responded.

“I just tell everybody I’m doing it for the past track kids and the future track kids,” Curry said. “I’m trying to promote this so they have a decent place to practice.”

Curry, who began working at Evergreen as a janitor and coach in 1979, has seen the ups and downs of school funding throughout the decades and nowadays Highline School District – like most Washington school districts – is in one of those down times. Therefore, he decided to step in and donate the money for Evergreen track’s long-needed update.

Before Curry made the donation, he said Evergreen had a cinder track (cinder is an igneous rock similar to pumice) that got raked now and again and rarely received fresh cinder. Cinder tracks have received negative attention in the track and field world for being tough on athletes’ bodies as they don’t have the support of a modern rubberized track. The foundation is currently down for the new track and once the weather warms up, most likely in April, the rubberized surface will be laid down.

“With this brand new surface more kids will be more apt to come out and participate so this is one reason why I’m pushing the issue to get a decent track and facility,” he said.

Although his monetary donation is the one that stands out on paper, Curry has donated his entire adult life to coaching kids.

“When I was coming up I didn’t really have anyone to take me under their wing so I said when I get the opportunity then I’d put it back and I try to spend as much time as possible with the kids,” he said.

“Sometimes my wife says I spend too much time, but there is never too much time for kids. If you spend time with them it keeps them out of trouble and it keeps you out of trouble,” Curry added.

“You get better as they get better.”

Curry has spent nearly his entire life in the Seattle area, growing up in central Seattle with eight brothers and sisters and a single mom. He played basketball, football, track and baseball at Garfield High School.

He joined the Navy after high school and spent two years stationed in San Diego before coming back to Seattle to finish out his reserve commitments.

He began working for the school district in 1976, starting out as a shop teachers’ aid at Puget Sound Junior High. He became a custodian at Mt. View Elementary in 1978 and eventually landed at Evergreen in 1979, where he has been ever since.

“We were struggling a bit,” Curry said of his life before winning the lottery. “We were struggling because we were trying to take care of my immediate family and my older boys and my sisters – trying to share the pot with all those relatives.”

“I’ve been playing lottery since the beginning and I’ve always said I was going to win and it just so happened we (Curry and his wife) spent two dollars on Quinto,” Curry said of that fateful day in June 2006.

His wife was at the store where they bought the ticket and the clerk told her she should check her tickets because a winning number had been sold at their location. She got the ticket, came back to the store and the clerk ran it.

The Quinto machine, “kept ringing and ringing and (the clerk) was kind of jumping up and down and saying, ‘You won!’”

Curry was working at Evergreen when his wife called.

“She called me and said, ‘You gotta come home right now.’”

“What’s going on?” Curry said.

“We won the lottery.”

Curry ran to the school office and told his boss he may have just won the lottery and he would be back as soon as possible. He went to the store with his wife and they were met by lottery officials with the winning check.

When people ask Curry why he still works the usher and seating host jobs in addition to his coaching and custodian duties at Evergreen, his answer is simple:

“I tell them I like the experience of meeting different people and I learn from different people and … seeing what people want to talk about and getting into some good conversations.”

He admits he also enjoys seeing Mariners games and the myriad of events held at the Seattle Center.

Although Curry’s life has remained largely unchanged over the past 30 years (with the exception of that $3.4 million stimulus package), he said there may be a new direction on the near horizon.

“Right now I’m kind of in a dilemma,” Curry said. “I want to finish this year off and my real goal is to run for the (Highline) school board.”

The dilemma is that school board members cannot be paid by the district, so he would have to stop coaching and working as a custodian at Evergreen.

“I think my voice and experience in the school system would add a little flavor to the school board. I think I can add a little more insight to the school board from working within the school system for so long.”

“So I decided maybe this is the year that I run and try to help the kids within the school system,” he said. “If I don’t win, I’ll continue to coach.”

Curry is in the process of working on his campaign strategy and filing the proper paperwork to get on the ballot for the November school board election.

He keeps his political agenda closely guarded for the time being, but said, “I’d like to see athletics put on the front agenda because it’s something that’s a relief for the kids. I’d like to see PE (physical education) programs back in full effect in the school system … when you get kids that can’t do push up or sit ups you know we are failing somewhere.”

As for the lottery, Curry chuckled and said, “I still play, two dollars, two dollars, two dollars.”

“I tell everybody I still buy lottery tickets because I’m not finished,” he said. “What I’d like to do is put a nice football field out there, Astroturf that, and I’d like to put in a couple more tennis courts.”

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