$22 Million Wisconsin Powerball Winner Keeps Promise to Split Jackpot with Friend

Saturday July 25th 2020

The Wisconsin man who won a $22 million Powerball jackpot in June has claimed his prize - and kept a promise he sealed with a handshake 28 years ago.

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In 1992, Thomas Cook and Joseph Feeney shook hands on an agreement: if either man ever hit it big on Powerball, they would share the winnings equally.

Fast-forward to 2020, and that's exactly what's happened.

Cook, of Elk Mound, hit an incredible $22 million top prize in the June 10 Powerball draw. His ticket matched all six numbers drawn, including white balls 10, 33, 41, 52, 54, and the red Powerball 18.

Cook purchased the lucky ticket at Synergy Coop Exit 45 on 2100 County Rd. B in Menomonie, and the retailer received a $100,000 bonus payment.

"We said whenever the big winner comes, we're going to split it, so we buy every week ... not really thinking it would happen," Feeney said. In fact, their biggest prize prior to the jackpot win was $100.

Cook was out for breakfast with his wife last month when he checked his numbers and realized he'd won the top prize.

Feeney told Lottery officials: "He said to his wife when he got back to the table, 'You read this.' She looked at it and said, 'Oh my God.' She handed it to somebody else and said, ‘Can you read those numbers for us?’”

The friend confirmed that "It looks like you guys won the Powerball."

Cook wasted no time reaching out to his fishing buddy. "A handshake is a handshake, man," he said.

"He called me and I said, 'are you jerkin' my bobber?'" Feeney recalled.

They'd finally landed the big one!

The men opted for the cash lump sum of $16.7 million, and after taxes they're each about $5.7 million better off.

The win allowed Cook to quit his job as a maintenance worker and join Feeney, a former firefighter and EMT, in retirement.

The men first met at a restaurant; Cook was with a friend and invited Feeney to sit at their table. Decades later, they still go out to eat together nearly every week. Over the years they've enjoyed trips to Niagara Falls, Yellowstone and the Football Hall of Fame.

The friends have had a warm reception after the news of their win. "Everybody's been so friendly and said it couldn't happen to two better couples that they know of," Feeney said. "And we're so thankful ... we both grew up with not a lot of money, so this is really something special," he noted, recalling growing up in a two-bedroom house as one of a family of 13 children in Elk Mound.

What plans do the lucky pair have for their prize money? More family time is at the top of their list. "We can pursue what we feel comfortable with. I can't think of a better way to retire," said Cook. They took a road trip with their wives a while ago in a small convertible, and say they'll do it again - with an upgraded set of wheels this time.

Another thing they'll continue: playing Powerball.

“Congratulations to Tom, Joe, and their families,” said Wisconsin Lottery Director Cindy Polzin. “The power of friendship and a handshake has paid off. I’m thrilled for them — their lucky day has arrived!”

Wisconsin's winning streak continues

It was the 18th Powerball jackpot won in WINsconsin since tickets for the game went on sale in 1992, the year Cook and Feeney made their pact. The Dairy State is currently tied in fourth place for the most winners.

Prior to Cook's win, Wisconsin's last Powerball grand prize winner was Manuel Franco, who hit a $768 million jackpot on March 27, 2019 - making history as the third-largest lottery prize ever nationwide. Franco chose the cash option of $477 million and after tax withholdings, he received just over $326 million.

Are you a Powerball winner? Check your tickets now and find out if you're owed a prize payment.

Current jackpots

The Powerball jackpot currently stands at $126 million for the next drawing on Wednesday, July 29. If you'd like to play sooner, Mega Millions has a $20 million grand prize up for grabs on Tuesday, July 28. You can get your tickets for both draws now.

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