Friends make promises to each other all the time, but not everyone stays true to their word, no matter how many pinky swears they make. And yet, something extraordinary was about to happen to Thomas Cook from Wisconsin.
He had made a bet with his friend that if either of them ever won the lottery, they would share the big prize. But would he be able to carry through with the promise he made to his friend 30 years earlier? Or will the temptation to keep the whole prize overtake him completely?
A Handshake Became a Promise
Most people claim to cross their heart and hope to die should they fail to come through on a promise they made. But for two Wisconsin men, a handshake was just as sacred as a contract. But would one of them be able to keep their promise after winning the lottery?
Powerball Came to Wisconsin
In 1992, Wisconsin became one of a handful of states that began the Powerball lottery game. For someone like Thomas Cook, who was just an ordinary guy leading an ordinary life, this was an opportunity to earn extra cash. But while the odds were against him, he had an idea to increase his chances of winning.
They Made a Pact
During the Powerball’s nascent year, Cook and his friend, Joseph Feeney, had decided to strike a deal. If either one of them were to win the lottery, they would share half of their earnings with the other. They even shook on it, but would they be able to go through with their promise?
They Kept Playing for 30 Years
Cook and Feeney continued to play Powerball for the next 30 years, but neither one of them had ever hit the jackpot. And yet, they kept on playing even though they never actually expected to win. But fate had more faith in them than they did.
It Was a Pricey Deal
Cook and Feeney both had to budget their money carefully to be able to afford to set a few dollars aside for lottery tickets every few weeks. Most families know that it isn't always easy to stick to a budget, but both men were able to still buy a ticket or two a few times a year.
Decisions Have to Be Made
Winning the Powerball isn’t easy since the odds aren’t in everyone’s favor. But those that do win have to make a decision on how they’re going to receive their winnings. Unfortunately, one of them requires paying more taxes.
Lump Sum or Annuity
The winner is often given two choices. They can either get their winnings through annuity or by lump sum. With annuity, their winnings would get split over a 29-year-period. But with lump sum, they would get all their earnings all at once after taxes are taken out. The lump sum seemed like a better choice for Cook and Feeney, they just never imagined that they would have to make such a decision.
The Pandemic Didn’t Stop Him
2020 was the year of the pandemic, but that didn’t stop Cook from continuing his tradition of playing Powerball. So, in June of that year, he bought a ticket just like he had for 30 years. But this time, the outcome was different.
He Had the Best Morning Ever
One day, Cook was having his breakfast just like he did every morning. But when he took a look at his ticket and compared the first two numbers, he felt his entire body go cold. Something was happening that was simply too good to be true.
He Had Bought a Winning Ticket
Cook was in a daze for several moments and then he recalled what had led to this life-altering moment. He had walked into Synergy Coop in Menomonie, Wisconsin on June 10, 2020 to buy a Powerball ticket, not realizing what was about to happen.
It Had Been a Day Like Any Other
When Cook made his typically run inside of the convenience store while filling up his car's tank with gas just a few days prior, he should have stopped to take a look around the store and sort through his feelings that day, because he would soon be left trying to remember the details of that very moment.
He Asked His Wife to Double Check
As he continued to look at his ticket, he realized something that was impossible, so he asked his wife to double check and she confirmed it. He had won the Powerball, which meant he was a freaking millionaire.
He Was a Winner, Baby!
Cook had the winning ticket and was destined to take home $22 million, but he was still in a state of shock. In fact, he assumed he was dreaming until the day he went to get his photo taken with the big check. But he couldn’t celebrate just yet.
His Family Didn't Know About the Deal
Before any congratulations were in order, Cook needed to get something off of his chest first to his wife and family. They knew that he had won a prize of $22 million, but he first had to tell them about the promise that would leave them all with only half of that sum.
He Had to Do the Right Thing
As far as Cook was concerned, this wasn’t just his money. The jackpot belonged to Feeney, too. After all, what was their friendship worth if he couldn’t keep his promise to him? And that’s exactly what he set out to do. So, he gave his friend a ring.
He Reached Out to His Friend
When Cook called his friend Feeney, who is a huge fan of fishing, to tell him the good news, Feeney assumed he was pulling his leg. “He called me, and I said, ‘Are you jerking my bobber?’” said Feeney, according to Powerball.
It Took a Moment to Convince Him
After a while, Feeney realized that Cook was serious, which meant that he was a winner, too. But would his friend honor the promise they had made to each other all those years ago or would he leave him hanging?
His Friend's Wife Wanted In, Too
Now that Feeney's wife had found out about the secret deal from all those years ago, she was suddenly more excited about her husband's friend's lottery win! Knowing that she may get to help her husband spend the money was exciting, but would they even get that chance?
Cook Was Tempted to Keep the Money
Cook was facing a crisis because on one hand, he wanted to keep the money, but on the other, he didn’t want to betray his friend. And yet, it’s not like he signed a contract or anything. Could he live with himself if he kept all the money for himself?
They Never Imagined They Would Win
Cook and Feeney never imagined that either one of them would win the Powerball, so when they made the promise to split their money, they were just messing around. But now that Cook had won, they sat down and had a talk.
The Promise Was Honored
When the media got wind of what was happening, they covered the story. Soon, the whole world was wondering what the two friends would do next. Then Cook and Feeney decided to lump their two earning. And after state and federal taxes, the men received about $5.7 million each.
It Was Time to Retire
Now that Cook was rich, he decided it was time to retire. So, he gave his notice and quit his job two weeks later. But what about Feeney? Would he follow in his friend’s footsteps and enjoy the finer things in life?
His Friend Beat Him to the Punch
While Cook was finally able to stop working, Feeney had already retired from the fire department before becoming a joint lottery winner with his friend. Now the two could start enjoying their golden years with their wives. But what was the first thing they spent their money?
They Wanted to Travel Again
The men had gone on a road trip with their wives long ago and they certainly had enough money now to take another road trip. But this time, they wanted some more comfortable wheels to go traveling in.
They Cruised the Streets in Style
With retirement happily in sights for both men, they bought some camping vehicles to make their trips in style. But there were still members of each of their families that didn't yet know about the men's win and they would soon have some incredible reactions about it.
They Still Had Family To Tell
Each of the men had grown children who were ecstatic for their fathers for winning such a big prize. The fathers vowed to use the money to travel to see their children and grandchildren more than they were used to, so everyone could take part in the fun.
They Planned on Seeing Their Family Soon
Cook and Feeney planned on traveling through Wisconsin and beyond to pay a visit to their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids and undoubtedly have a large family feast along the way. And the public was very impressed by these two friends and their decision to share their winnings.
The Lottery Director Recognized Their Friendship
The public and the director of the Wisconsin State Lottery, Cindy Polzin, knew how amazing Cook and Feeney’s friendship was. "The power of friendship and a handshake has paid off. I’m thrilled for them – their lucky day has arrived!" She exclaimed.
Their Future Was Looking Bright
Cook and Feeney had never had the freedom to splurge on things or to go on too many trips and go sightseeing. But that was no longer the case. Thanks to Cook’s honesty and loyalty, both he and Feeney would get to enjoy their lives without worrying about financial responsibilities. But they weren’t done being generous.
They Wanted to Help Others Out
On September 9, 2020, the friends posted a message on their Facebook page, Thomas Cook and Joseph Feeney Foundation, that made their followers very happy. Instead of just keeping their money, they decided to give some away to random people. But what did these folks have to do to get the cash?
They Shared Their Wealth
According to the Facebook post, 80 winners would each get $50,000. “All you have to do is to Like, Follow and share our page. Ensure to send us a message to notify us after doing all this,” they wrote on their Facebook page. So, while some people are content to keep their earnings, they were happier sharing their wealth.
Past Lottery Winners Haven’t Been As Lucky
Many lottery winners sadly find that money cannot fix some of the biggest problems in their lives. A woman named Ibi Roncailoli won $5 million in 1991 and gave a large sum of $2 million of the winnings to her child. But her husband had not known about this child prior to her win and he ultimately poisoned her.
She Was Scammed Out of Her Winnings
Suzanne Mullins won $4.3 million dollars in a lottery, and opted to utilize the services of a company that would send her payments in advance. Sadly, she ended up owing over $100,000 to this company in fees, falling victim to a scam that cost her a large percentage of her winnings.
One Million Dollars Isn’t Enough to Do Everything
Lisa Arcand figured out the hard way that winning $1 million dollars won’t fund your dreams forever. After her win, Arcand bought a house, went on an expensive vacation and opened a restaurant. Soon, her restaurant failed and she has since found the win to be “very depressing.”
Teenage Winner Now Thinks Teens Shouldn’t Be Eligible to Play
Callie Rogers, a UK citizen, won $2 million when she was just 16 years old. She soon spent the money on cosmetic surgery and lavish partying, which left her severely depressed and ultimately broke. She now believes that teens shouldn’t be eligible to win such large prizes.
He “Lived For The Day”
Lou Eisenbern used his $5 million in winnings to buy a condo in Florida and take some pretty expensive vacations. He opted for a long term pay out and his final check was cashed in 2001. Since then, he has had to sell his condo and he now lives in a mobile home at the age of 81.
Evelyn Gambled the Money Away
Some lottery winners end up squandering their money more quickly than some may believe to be possible! Evelyn Adams won the New Jersey Lottery twice in 1985 and 1986. She gambled away her entire $5.4 million sum in just a few years in Atlantic City.
Americo Lopes Also Made a Deal With His Friends
This man won the lottery after he and a few of his coworkers bought a large amount of tickets together. After realizing that he won, Lopes lied to his friends and quit his job, hoping to keep the money for himself. The coworkers soon found out and took him to court to get their share of the prize.
A Millionaire Won the Big Prize
Jack Whittaker was already a millionaire when he won $314.9 million dollars. His life was then spent gambling wildly and partaking in controlled substances with his family, some of whom ultimately died from their addictions. He then told reporters that his life was much easier before the win.
A 19-Year-Old Breezed Through His Prize
Another teenage winner, Michael Carroll won a British lottery at the age of just 19. After ten years he had completely spent the $14 million he won on luxuries and illegal substances. Now he earns a modest wage of $300 per week at a factory job in England.