WHEELING - After enduring years of good-natured ridicule for his faithful, twice-a-week lottery ticket purchases, John Lancaster has a million reasons to say "I told you so."
West Virginia Lottery officials introduced the Weirton resident as the state's latest $1 million Powerball winner Thursday at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino Racetrack. Lancaster purchased the winning ticket May 17 at the Convenient Food Mart on Pennsylvania Avenue in Weirton, not far from the tire shop he owns, matching every number but the Powerball.
It continues an impressive streak of good fortune for West Virginia, which has seen 10 Powerball or Mega Millions tickets worth $1 million or more sold in the state since January - three of those in the Northern Panhandle alone, including a still-unclaimed ticket sold in February on Wheeling Island.
MILLION-DOLLAR DAY — John Lancaster of Weirton, center, celebrates his $1 million Powerball win with family members including, from left, son-in-law and daughter Aaron and Ashleigh Gurskey, daughters Amber and Angel Lancaster, wife Gloria Lancaster, father-in-law Nick Mraovich and mother Julia Lancaster. -- Ian Hicks
"This is what happens. This is what I tell them: It only takes one ticket to win," Lancaster said. "God works in mysterious ways."
It wasn't until after he walked into Convenient the following Wednesday to buy a ticket for that night's drawing that Lancaster learned he'd won. When the clerk informed him that a $1 million ticket had been sold there the previous Saturday, he went home to check his ticket against the winning numbers.
One by one, they matched.
"I went, 'Oh my God, it's me,'" Lancaster said. "It was pretty stunning at the time."
As for Lancaster's plans for the money, he wants to buy a storage shed so he can finally clean out the garage. He said his three daughters all need new cars and, although there's been talk of a vacation sometime next year, he wants to set aside much of his windfall for retirement.
Lancaster said he plans to continue operating his business, JAAAG Tire, as he has for the past eight years. The name of the store serves as a constant reminder of what's most important to him: The letters represent his first initial, those of his three daughters - Ashleigh, Amber and Angel - and his wife, Gloria.
"My good luck is my family," he said. "That's what life's about. I've been blessed over and over."
Lancaster's eldest daughter, Ashleigh Gurskey, admits she probably was the biggest critic of her father's lottery playing. When he told her the news, she said, she could do nothing but cry.
"My dad works so hard, and he does everything for us girls," Gurskey said. "We never had to do without anything. ... For him to win this is amazing."