A winning lottery ticket worth a million dollars offered hope to one New York man, but the life-changing event would be short-lived as he lost his life to stage 4 cancer just three weeks later.
Donald Savastano, a self-employed carpenter living in upstate New York, struck it rich when he was driving home from work in early January and stopped at a convenience to purchase lottery tickets. The 51-year-old walked in and bought a Merry Millionaire ticket, and scratched it while on his way back to the car—revealing he had hit the $1 million grand prize.
“I couldn’t believe it!” Savastano told the New York Lottery in an announcement of his prize. “I brought it back in and scanned it under the ticket checker and knew it was a winner.”
Savastano decided to take the one-time lump sum payment, totaling $661,800 after withholdings. The winnings, he said, would allow him to build for the years to come.
“Being a self-employed carpenter, I didn’t really have a plan for retirement,” he said. “The money will help with that. I don’t have any other extravagant plans. I’ll buy a new truck, pay off some debt and invest for the future.”
One of those plans was finally going to the doctor for a check-up because he hadn’t been feeling well. But the visit resulted in terrifying news: Savastano had stage 4 metastatic cancer.
Danielle Scott, an employee at the store where the ticket was purchased, told ABC 7 that Savastano didn’t have insurance.
“He had a friend come and talk to me,” told ABC 7. “They told me that he was very sick and that he had brain and lung cancer and that he was in the hospital and they didn’t think he was gonna make it.”
Savastano died from the disease on January 26, just 23 days after purchasing his ticket.
“I was hoping that the money was maybe going to save his life,” Scott told the news station.
An obituary for Savastano he learned carpentry from his father as a child growing up on Long Island.
“He was known for his high-quality work and perfectionism,” the obituary reads. “He always tried to reach out and help those he could by teaching them ‘the right way to do things.’ “
Savastano lived with his girlfriend of 12 years, Julie Wheeler, and helped to raise her two sons. The family is asking for donations to be made to the American Cancer Society in his memory.