In 1992, Tom Cook and Joseph Feeney made a deal: If either of them ever won the Powerball lottery, they would split the winnings between them.
The two friends shook on it, and that was that. Last month, Tom Cook bought the ticket that won him $22 million, and he immediately knew what he had to do.
Tom called up his friend Joseph and said that he was planning to honor their deal. “He called me, and I said, ‘are you jerking my bobber?'” said Joseph. (If you’re wondering: Yes, Joseph loves fishing.)
Tom retired after he won the lottery. Joseph had already retired several years before. The two friends opted for the cash option, which means they’ll be splitting $16.7 million between them.
Tom shared that as soon as he heard he won, he didn’t even hesitate. “A handshake is a handshake, man.”
Neither Tom nor Joseph could remember exactly how their pact originated, but luckily, the Wisconsin Lottery was able to do some sleuthing.
The theory is that the pact likely goes back to 1992, when the lottery was first introduced to the state. Joseph shared, “We said whenever the big winner comes, we’re going to split it, so we buy every week … not really thinking it would happen.” He’s definitely not wrong in assuming it wouldn’t happen, as the odds of winning the Powerball are currently 1 in 292,201,338.
While both men are looking forward to living a comfortable retired life, neither has big plans for the money. They both plan to travel a little more, and they’ll also continue to play the lottery.
Tom actually realized that he had the winning ticket while he was eating breakfast.
“It was quite an experience when I read the first two or three numbers, and I kind of froze and handed them to her [his wife]. She froze!”
Meanwhile, Joe is still marveling over the entire experience, including the phone call he received from Tom with the news.
Joe explained that the pact was simple. “We said, whenever the big winner comes, we’re going to split it. We buy every week not really thinking it would happen.”
Tom added, “It happened many years ago, and it just kind of continued.”
Tom says he’s looking forward to getting to spend more time enjoying his family now that he’s retired. “I got children and grandchildren and [a] great-grandchild. I … want to spend time with them without worrying if I got time to go and where we can go and afford it and whatever. I can’t think of a better way to retire.”
Tom and Joseph aren’t the only people who are enjoying a success story after winning the lottery. While there are plenty of stories out there about how winning big can ruin people’s lives, there are also lots of inspirational tales about how winners have used their windfall to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
Neal Wanless was 23 when he won the lottery in 2009. He was also in a pretty sticky spot: He was behind on his tax payments and wasn’t able to pay for repairs at his ranch. He had recently turned to selling scrap metal for cash when he decided to buy a $5 lottery ticket. He ended up winning a lump sum payment of $88 million. He decided to put a lot of the money away, but he used a fair bit of it to help others in his community.
In 2007, Cynthia P. Stafford was parenting her brother’s five children after he was killed in a car accident. She was struggling to make ends meet, and she started focusing on her dream: winning a $112 million jackpot. She claims to have begun really focusing on winning that exact amount by using methods to attract luck … and then three years later, she actually did!
And here’s one more: Les Robins is a high school teacher who won $111 million in the Powerball lottery. He used the money to start his own camp for kids and opened up Camp Winnegator. He keeps costs to attend the camp low and gives children the opportunity to horseback ride, craft, swim, and play on the lake.
Stories like these just really go to show that you never know what could be right around the corner. One day you’re not sure you’ll retire, and the next you’ve hit the lottery big and now you and your best friend can live a more relaxed life.