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Miller Place neighbors sing praises of lottery winners

Mega Millions lottery winner Mary Morrison flashes two

Mega Millions lottery winner Mary Morrison flashes two thumbs up Wednesday night as she is driven by private security guards in Miller Place. (Jan. 6, 2010) Credit: James Carbone

Marty Corrigan and his wife were at a local Applebee's restaurant on Christmas Eve when they ran into their longtime Miller Place neighbors, Richard and Mary Morrison and their family, who promptly bought them a round of the Scotch they were drinking.

Corrigan said his 20-year neighbors "seemed very happy" for some reason.

Now he knows why. A day earlier, the Morrisons had found out they owned the largest winning lottery ticket in Long Island history.

>> READ: Suffolk demanding money from Mega Millions winners

>>PHOTOS: LI couple wins $165-million jackpot

Buying the drinks was a nice touch, Marty Corrigan said, but it wasn't out of character for the always gracious Morrisons.

"I'm happy as heck for them," he said.

The couple will be formally introduced as winners of the $165-million Mega Millions prize at the Garden City lottery office Thursday.

Some neighbors watched the Morrisons outside their house Wednesday talking to media members about Suffolk County's claim that the Morrisons owe the county more than $950,000, a charge the couple denies. Most of those neighbors, along with co-workers and friends of the Morrisons, were excited to have discovered that the couple was now rich.

Neighbor Kathy Ricciardelli recalled the time her mother was sick with cancer and Mary, a massage therapy student at the time, would come over and massage the mother's feet.

"The massages really brightened her day," Kathy's husband, John, said.

The Morrisons had a profound impact on many people who stayed at the Love'M Sheltering Inc. homeless shelters the couple formerly operated in Suffolk, said Valerie Parker, a former shelter resident. Parker, who now lives in an East Patchogue apartment, said she stayed at the shelters in 2000 and 2001 and found "the whole place was just like a family."

Parker, a former domestic abuse victim who was pregnant and had three children at the time, said the Morrisons helped keep her safe and turn her life around.

"It couldn't have happened to better people," she said. "They pulled me through."

Mary Macqueen, of Manorville, said she was placed to work at one of the Love'M shelters through a welfare program in the 1980s. She said she had so much respect for the Morrisons that she went on to volunteer at another of their shelters from 1988 to 1991 while she went to college.

Macqueen said she felt good when she learned of the Morrisons' winnings because "they are going to do something with the money." The couple plans a host of charitable endeavors for the money, which will be paid as a lump sum of more than $100 million before taxes, lottery officials have said.

Donna Gaddis, 50, a neighbor who has known the family for about 17 years, remembered her daughter playing with the Morrisons' daughters.

"I'm glad it happened to people who like and want to help others," Gaddis said.

With Katie Serignese

>>PHOTOS: LI couple wins $165-million jackpot

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