|Joanne and Duane Thompson pose with a giant cheque presented to them Thursday at a press conference at Casino Lethbridge after the couple won a Lotto 6/49 jackpot of over $45 million.
Herald photo by Ian Martens
Baby Jack was born on a Thursday in November; a day his family will always remember. Because not only did he arrive in this world without any cares, his grandparents just became Canada's newest millionaires!
It sounds like a fairy tale,almost too good to be true and yet overwhelmingly real for Lethbridge couple Duane and Joanne Thompson, who claimed more than $45 million in Lotto winnings Thursday as they celebrated the birth of their fifth grandchild, Jack, who was born that morning in B.C.
The couple won $45,677,260.50 - the third largest jackpot in Lotto 6/49 history and the biggest individual 6/49 prize won that was not shared by a group.
Joanne, having played the lottery every Wednesday and Saturday for years, bought a $5 Quick Pick 6/49 ticket from Casino Lethbridge in time for the Nov. 14 draw.
"I came in to check my ticket and scanned it and it just said 'special number - see retailer' and I thought I won $450 and I was very happy," she said.
She brought her ticket to the counter to confirm her win, having no idea how many zeroes were tacked on to that number.
"Then it just got overwhelming. The machine shut down and then they said 'you've won 45 million dollars' and I was just shocked."
Her husband of 10 years, Duane, left work early to meet a screaming Joanne at the casino.
"I couldn't believe it. It's unbelievable," he said.
Duane, an auto mechanic for 30 years at Subway Automotive and his wife, who's been a house-cleaner for 22 years, said they're retiring now. Joanne won't be cleaning any more homes - not even her own, she said, laughing.
"I'm sad to leave because I love the people I work for," she said, and Duane agreed. But the couple, who have six children between them, now have the freedom to travel the world. They don't plan on buying a new house or moving from their home in Lethbridge - they just moved back to the city last June after spending several years in St. Albert. But they do look forward to taking their grandkids to Disneyland and providing for their family.
"This happens to somebody else. We figure it just doesn't happen to ordinary people like us. We were overwhelmed with the amount. We plan on sharing it with our family and close friends and charities that are near and dear to our hearts," Joanne said.
"I think everybody at some time in their life talks about what they'd do if they won the lottery and they kind of giggle. And when the actual thing has happened, it's overwhelming but it's actually wonderful that we can help so many people that we love."
At a Thursday afternoon press conference at the casino called by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and the Western Canada Lottery Corporation - which has no obligation to pay winners unless they give permission to publish their name, city and photo - the couple received a free limo ride and a bouquet of 45 roses, one for each million.
No opportunistic distant relatives or fake friends have popped out of the woodwork in the wake of the couple's big win - a win that's still sinking in, they admitted.
One of the first things on their agenda is to pay a visit to baby Jack, who's now in for quite an inheritance. The couple said they're so pleased they can now afford to pay for their grandchildren's education.
"We're very, very excited. Very humbled and grateful to be providing a secure future for our grandchildren," Joanne said.
Alberta appears to be on a lucky streak - winning tickets for the two largest 6/49 payouts, $54.3 million in 2005 and $49.8 million in 2009, were also purchased in the province.
The lottery winnings are tax-free in Canada. About 51 per cent of every dollar spent on lottery tickets goes back into the prize jackpot, while 33.7 per cent goes to community programs via the Alberta Lottery Fund and 6.4 per cent goes to commission for retailers who sell the tickets.