John Lewis says he doesn't know what compelled him to buy the scratcher while buying mushrooms

By Jason Duaine Hahn
August 29, 2017 02:21 PM
NYS Gaming Commission/NY Lottery

A case of missing mushrooms led one man to walk away with $5 million in winnings from the New York Lottery.

John Lewis, 56, of Saranac Lake, New York, stopped by a local market in June to gather some last-minute ingredients for dinner before starting his bartending shift.

“I ran to the store before work to get mushrooms for my spaghetti sauce,” Lewis told New York Lottery officials. “It’s a two-day sauce my dad used to make.”

After making his purchase, Lewis was given $10 in change, so, on a whim, he decided to buy a Set For Life scratch-off ticket from a vending machine at the market. “I never put money in those things,” he said. “What possessed me to be in that store at that time with just the right amount of money in my hand for that machine I will never know. I have been asking myself that question over and over for days. In the end, though, I’m just glad it was me.”

It turned out to be one of the best spontaneous purchases he’d ever make—the ticket netted him the top prize of $5 million (and all but ensuring him that he will never be low on the spaghetti sauce again). Lewis didn’t choose to receive the lump total, instead, he literally set himself up for life by choosing to get his prize money in $172,068 annual installments for as long as he lives. That means that if he happens to live another 60 years, his winnings can double to more than $10 million. Regardless, even if he passes tomorrow, his estate is guaranteed at least $5 million.

Lewis immediately quit his bartending job in Lake Placid after verifying the ticket was a legitimate winner. But flights on private jets or trips to the Las Vegas Strip aren’t on his itinerary just yet—Lewis said that instead of radically uplifting his life, he’s going to use his winnings to help a family member pay medical bills, buy some property and go skiing, Lewis told WCAX.

“I was planning on working at something till the day I died,” he said. “This may open a few more doors, but we’re happy with the life we have. It’s a good life.”