It's common for lottery winners to share a portion of their massive prize, but this lottery winner took it to the next level.
Many lottery players like to imagine how they might spend their winnings should their numbers come up. It is, after all, part of the fun of the lottery online. In many ways, the fantasy of the win is as much a part of why we play as the prospect of a win itself. While many players will no doubt fantasize about massive houses, luxury cars and quitting their 9 to 5 jobs, they will likely also think of all the people they can help with their money. They can pay for their kids’ college education, help out elderly relatives who are struggling on their pensions, help out other family and friends in need or donate to any number of worthy charitable causes.
Today we’ll look at a lottery winner who was a little more unorthodox in their generosity.
Our story takes place back in the ‘80s at the South Pizzeria in Yonkers. In this unassuming restaurant, a tale that would endure for decades began. New York City police detective Robert Cunningham jokingly asked his waitress, Phyllis Penzo if they could split a lottery ticket together instead of him leaving her a tip. Don’t worry, he wasn’t being rude! Cunningham and Penzo had been friends for over a decade up until this point. The waitress half-jokingly agreed and between them, the two decided the lottery numbers.
The New York cop bought his ticket little dreaming that a win might be on the cards.
On April 1st 1984 Penzo got a life-changing phone call from Cunningham. The waitress answered the phone at 9am to the news that she and her friend had hit the jackpot with their shared Lotto ticket. The half-asleep waitress did not react as one might expect; firstly because she was so tired and secondly because… yup, it was April Fools’ day and Penzo was convinced that her friend was playing a prank on her.
When Cunningham finally convinced Penzo that he was telling the truth, the waitress let out a loud scream of joy which woke her sleeping husband. The detective was true to his word and split his winnings with his friend straight down the middle. The pair would pocket a staggering $287,715 a year each for the next 21 years.
If the above story rings a vague bell it’s likely because you’ve seen it acted out before (albeit with a few Hollywood embellishments). The story was actually the inspiration for the 1994 romantic comedy It Could Happen To You which starred Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda. Although the movie took the basic premise from the real-life story, it took some dramatic liberties.
For example, the film depicts a blossoming romance between the two as they find solace from their dysfunctional relationships in one-another. Needless to say, there was no such romance in real life, although Penzo and Cunningham remained firm friends and fellow millionaires.
Still, the ‘90s classic got one thing right… It really could happen to you! Whose life would you change if you played US Powerball online and won big?