"I'm the second-highest winner of all time," said Kling, 57, of Snohomish.
Kling won $147,000 in cash on the show, which was recorded last September and aired Friday. She was told that's second only to the slightly more than $1 million won by Michelle Loewenstein in 2008. The show has been on the air since 1975.
Kling gathered about 40 people in the community room at her father's apartment complex in West Seattle to watch the show Friday evening, she said. "We had two big-screen TVs," she said.
Kling was sworn to secrecy about the outcome from September until the airing of the show, which was a tough secret to keep, she said.
"The first thing everyone asked when I told them I was on the show was, 'How much did you win?'" she said.
She did tell her husband -- sort of. She made him guess. He started at $10,000 and went up by $10,000 increments, she said. "I kept saying higher, much higher."
Her son was on the show about 15 years ago and won $15,000, Kling said.
She's been applying online for 12 years to be a contestant, and last year was finally invited to an audition at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle.
She was one of about 75 people there. "I was the first contestant to line up," more than an hour early, she said.
Her sister, aunt and two nieces accompanied her to the show's taping in Los Angeles. They also were obligated to keep the secret, she said.
The show didn't start well.
"The first half of the show, I had no money and the guy next to me had $24,000," Kling said.
On "Wheel of Fortune," contestants solve word puzzles by filling in missing letters after spinning a wheel to determine dollar amounts.
Kling got rolling by solving one puzzle for $2,000, then another for $3,000 in the "speed round," she said. Then she solved another puzzle in which each letter was worth $6,000, for a sum of $42,000, bringing her total to $47,000.
This got her to the bonus round.
"I solved the puzzle and won $100,000 on it," she said.
Relatives traveled thousands of miles for the viewing party Friday. Her sister Diane, who was present at the show, and brother-in-law and niece came from the Dallas area. Her aunt Kay, who was at the show, her 92-year-old uncle and a cousin rode up on the train from California.
The event doubled as an 80th birthday party for Kling's father, Dick Cihak.
"We had a blast," she said.
Kling now must wait until late April to get her money, she said -- 120 days after the show's air date.
Kling is a contract instructor for Boeing and teaches part time at Everett Community College. She and her husband plan to use some of the money to remodel their home and for investment.
"We're just going to take a nice little trip to Europe," she said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.
Watch the big win
The final round of Cindy Kling's appearance on Wheel of Fortune, when she won biggest chunk of her $147,000, may be seen on YouTube at http://tinyurl.com/bafc2wh.
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