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Man splits $22 million jackpot win with friend, keeping nearly 30-year-old promise

Wisconsin friends Thomas Cook and Joseph Feeney made a promise in 1992 to split the Powerball jackpot if one of them ever won.
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Wisconsin friends Thomas Cook and Joseph Feeney shook hands in 1992 and promised that if one of them ever won the Powerball jackpot, he would split the lottery winnings with the other.

Cook, of Elk Mound, kept that 28-year-old agreement when he purchased the winning ticket for a $22 million jackpot at a gas station in Menomonie in June.

"It was quite an experience. When I read the first two or three numbers, I kind of froze," he said in an interview Thursday with the Wisconsin Lottery.

Cook, who said he was eating breakfast at the time, passed the ticket over to his wife. "She froze," he said.

After realizing he won, Cook called his friend.

Feeney, of Menomonie, said he thought Cook was joking. The two men would buy lottery tickets every week but never thought they would actually win, he explained.

"That happened many years ago," Cook said of their promise. "A handshake's a handshake, man."

The friends chose the cash option of about $16.7 million, according to a Wisconsin Lottery press release. Cook and Feeney will each take home roughly $5.7 million after federal and state taxes.

Cook, who has grandchildren and great-grandchildren, retired from his job after winning, the press release stated. Feeney had already retired from the fire department.

Neither has extravagant plans for the money but said they want to spend more time with their families and to do some traveling.

"We can pursue what we feel comfortable with," Cook said in the interview. "I can't think of a better way to retire."

It is the first Powerball jackpot win in the state since March 2019 when a 24-year-old man won a record-setting $768.4 million jackpot, according to the press release. It's the state's 18th Powerball jackpot win since Wisconsin debuted the game in 1992. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in about 292 million.

The state's lottery director congratulated the friends on their big win.

“The power of friendship and a handshake has paid off. I’m thrilled for them — their lucky day has arrived!” Cindy Polzin said in a statement.

The Menomonie gas station was awarded $100,000 for selling Cook the ticket.