A stop for gas leads to $1M and a mystery
Nebraska Lottery retailers located right off the expressway don’t get a lot of familiar faces coming in. There are a few regulars, but it’s mostly weary travelers stopping for a cup of coffee or a pop and a couple of Scratch tickets.
With the Covid-19 mask requirements, it’s that much more difficult to recognize people when they walked in. When you’ve got a big winner, it’s hard to know who it was.
Fast Mart, located at 6835 North 27th Street in Lincoln, is about a quarter mile off I-80. They’re right across the street from a Cracker Barrel and King Kong, a local burger joint. There’s a Wendy’s tucked into the back of Fast Mart, making them a great stop for food and gas for people making their way back home.
Peter and Tammy Van Winkle were doing just that on Saturday, July 25. They’d been in Omaha doing a little shopping and, on their way home to Grand Island, they stopped in to fill up with gas.
Tammy stepped inside to grab some Scratch and Lotto tickets for the ride home, including a Powerball.
When they got back home, they put the tickets in a pile and just let them sit for a few days. On Thursday, July 30, Peter decided to take them to get checked at a nearby gas station.
The first one he checked on the Check-A-Ticket machine was a Lucky for Life ticket that won $3. Then he scanned the Powerball ticket Tammy had bought on Saturday.
The machine didn’t tell him how much he’d won, but it read, “Winner, present ticket to Nebraska Lottery”. Peter knew they’d won something good.
“I got this weird feeling I should sign the back,” he said. “My heart rate immediately increased.”
He headed home with the ticket and he and Tammy logged onto the Nebraska Lottery website. They checked their ticket and it looked like they’d won the million, but they couldn’t believe it. They checked it again, and again, and again. Peter said they probably checked the ticket about 20 times.
Word traveled pretty quickly to Fast Mart. A Nebraska Lottery representative gave them a call on Monday, manager Jamaica Cummins said, and then players started to come in, having heard the news.
Employee Rush Boehr was the one who sold the winning ticket, the store thinks, and even thought he’s only been working there about three months, he’s seen his popularity grow as a cashier in the last few days.
“A few found out and they want to start buying from me,” Rush said. “They say, ‘Clearly you’re lucky.’ I’m like, ‘I was for that guy, and I hope I am for you too.’”
They still hadn’t found out who the winner was late into the following week. There were rumors that it was someone local or maybe some guy from Hastings, but it was the Van Winkles who were holding onto the golden ticket.
After they found out about their win, they put the ticket in their fire safe until they could make it up to Lincoln to cash it in the next morning. They showed up before the office opened on July 31 and waited outside until the doors were unlocked.
Tammy runs A Higher Plane, a crystal store in Grand Island. She said she’d been using the philosophy of the law of attraction to win at Powerball. Tammy said she visualized her family winning at Powerball, but Peter said he has a different technique.
“I just buy them,” he said. “It’s cheaper than a beer.”
Back at Fast Mart, Rush was just glad he was able to brighten the Grand Island couple’s day.
“I like the satisfaction of making someone’s life better,” Rush said. “That’s just kind of the guy I am.”
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