Ervin Smolinski, a 94-year-old WWII Navy veteran, was given one the best presents he’s ever received: a Double Bonus Cashword instant game ticket worth $300,000. Smolinski’s daughter-in-law bought him the scratch-off lottery ticket for his 94th birthday on March 17, 2017.
Smolinski started buying lottery tickets for friends and family members as a birthday tradition, never expecting a huge payout for himself.
“Every month, I buy some instant tickets and send them as gifts to family members who have birthdays that month,” he said. “It’s turned into a bit of a tradition, and now everyone sends me scratch-offs and chocolate for my birthday.”
The stoic veteran said he remained calm after scratching off the big winner. The $300,000 winning ticket was the first of four tickets he stretched off. After winning, he patiently scratched away at the three remaining tickets, while his family members lost their collective minds in background.
“I had four Double Bonus Cashword tickets and the big winner was the first one I scratched,” said Smolinski. “I’ve seen a lot in my time, and I don’t get worked up too easily. I think my son-in-law was more worked up than I was.”
Smolinski put his nerves of steel to good use and waited four days before traveling to Michigan Lottery headquarters claim his prize on Tuesday. He says that he kept the $300,000 in his shirt pocket for “safe keeping.”
“I wanted to keep the ticket safe, so I kept it in my pocket,” said Smolinski. “I got a little nervous about that, because a lot of time I’ll toss the paper I accumulate in my pocket into my wood burner. Luckily that didn’t happen with my ticket.”
The frugal veteran says that not having to worry about money anymore is the biggest gift of all. He plans to invest the money in for his family’s future and treat himself to a new shed and a newer used car.