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Two Wisconsin friends split $22 million Powerball jackpot after a deal made 28 years ago

Jul 24, 2020, 5:56 pm

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Lottery winner never forgot that handshake from nearly three decades ago

By Kate Northrop

Handshakes still haven't gone out of style after one Wisconsin man honored a deal he made with his close friend 28 years ago.

When Thomas Cook won a $22 million Powerball jackpot from the June 10 drawing, he called up his buddy Joseph Feeney to let him know of the news and that he would be upholding his end of their bargain struck three decades earlier.

Back when the Powerball game started in 1992, the two Wisconsin natives shook hands on a deal — that if either one of them won the lottery, they would split the winnings equally.

Finally, after years' worth of buying lottery tickets, Cook purchased the winning Powerball ticket at the gas station convenience store at the Synergy Coop on Exit 45 in Menomonie, Wisconsin. He checked his numbers while having breakfast with his wife and had her double-check them for him once he realized he won.

"It was quite an experience when I read those first two or three numbers," Cook recalled. "I kind of froze and handed them to her, and she froze."

Then, he gave his job two weeks' notice and got ready to call Feeney, who was already retired from his job at a fire department.

"Are you jerking my bobber?" Feeney asked Cook out of disbelief during their phone call.

"A handshake's a handshake," Cook said.

The two friends visited the Wisconsin Lottery headquarters in Madison to claim their shared prize with their wives. After choosing the lump sum payment of $16.7 million before taxes, they both took home about $5.7 million each after federal and state taxes were deducted.

"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.

With their newfound wealth, the pair said they could pursue whatever they feel comfortable with and could not think of a better way to retire. They've already taken some road trips with their PT Cruiser convertible. As far as plans go, they're considering upgrading it for future road trips and intend on spending quality, stress-free time with family while traveling.

And, to this day, Cook still plays the Powerball.

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