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Best Friends Split Jackpot Lottery Prize, Honoring Decades-Old Promise

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Some promises last a lifetime. The bond between best friends can’t be broken, even after 20 years. For Tom Cook and Joe Feeney, their friendship has been linked by a promise that if either of them ever won the U.S. lottery, they would split the winnings.

The promise was made in 1992, but neither of the two Wisconsin natives has had any luck with the lottery — until now. In June 2020, Cook had a winning $22 million Powerball ticket. His dream came true and he quickly remembered his promise. These two best friends just became a whole lot wealthier. What are they going to do with their new money?

Making The Promise

In 1992, Cook and Feeney were talking about the lottery and how they wish one of them could win. The best friends decided if either of them ever won, they would split the winnings, no matter how large the sum turned out to be. They shook hands, sealing the deal on this promise.

“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.

Of course, the friends were sure neither of them would ever win. The odds of winning the lottery are estimated to be one in 292.2 million. In fact, you are more likely to be struck by lightning, have a snake bite, die in a car crash or get mauled by a dog, than you are to win the lottery. It doesn’t happen very often and most people wait their whole lives to see their winning lottery ticket show up on the television screen, to no avail. 

But people still dream. They know winning the lottery is the only secure way to ever retire comfortably. So, they keep buying lottery tickets year after year. For Cook and Feeney, their winning lottery ticket came at a time neither of them ever expected.

Winning The Lottery

On June 10, Cook checked the numbers on the $2 Wisconsin Powerball ticket he bought at a shop in his hometown of Menomonie. He was understandably surprised when he discovered he had won $22 million. As soon as his initial shock wore off, he remembered his promise to Feeney. He called his best friend and told him the happy news.

“A handshake is a handshake,” Cook said. At first, Feeney didn’t believe his friend. The avid fisherman asked, “Are you jerking my bobber?”

But it wasn’t a prank. Cook was one of the lucky, rare individuals who won the lottery and hit the big jackpot. The friends are taking a cash payout of $16.7 million and they will each receive approximately $5.7 million after a tax reduction, according to the Wisconsin Lottery. Can you imagine suddenly winning $5.7 million? It is going to change the friends’ lives.

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

Their Future Plans

Now millionaires, Cook and Feeney can do whatever they want with their lottery winnings but what first? The two friends are practical and they don’t plan to blow their money on extravagant purchases or trips. Instead, Cook decided to retire from his job so he can spend more time with his family and make small trips with them. Feeney had already retired from his job prior to this sudden surprise.

“We can pursue what we feel comfortable with. I can’t think of a better way to retire,” Cook said. They can’t wait to spend time with family and Cook said he will still play the Powerball for fun.

Winning millions of dollars is a nice hobby to have, but it feels even better sharing it with a best friend. 

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