Thomas Cook and Joseph Feeney agreed in 1992 that if either one of them won Powerball, they would split it equally, no matter who actually bought the winning ticket. They shook hands on the deal, vowing to keep that promise.
That vow, that agreement, became reality in June, when Cook realized he bought the winning ticket June 10, worth $22 million, at the Synergy Coop, 2100 Highway B, in Menomonie.
The friends, and their wives, claimed the prize at the lottery headquarters at the end of June.
The cash option made the winning total about $16.7 million. After federal and state taxes, Cook and Feeney each claimed $5.7 million, according to the Wisconsin Lottery.
Cook, of Elk Mound, and Feeney, of Menomonie, declined to be interviewed by area media, but they appeared together in a YouTube video about their sudden wealth. Cook said he realized he had the winning ticket while eating breakfast.
“It was quite an experience when I read them first two, three numbers. I kind of froze,” Cook said. “I handed her (his wife) the numbers, and she froze.”
Feeney was stunned when Cook called him to tell him the amazing news.
“I said, ‘Are you jerking my bobber?’” Feeney said.
Wisconsin began selling Powerball tickets in 1992, and the men said their handshake agreement happened at that time. Feeney said they bought the tickets every week, never thinking it would actually happen.
Cook said he never thought about backing out on their three-decade-old agreement.
“A handshake is a handshake,” Cook said.
Cook said he immediately gave his work his two-week notice and retired. Feeney, who had worked at a fire department, had already retired.
Cook said he is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, without worrying about if he could afford it.
“I can’t think of a better way to retire,” Cook said.
Synergy Coop received a $100,000 incentive for selling the winning ticket.
Cook said he anticipates he will keep buying lottery tickets.
Since Powerball began, Wisconsin has now had 18 jackpot winners, which is tied for fourth all time among the states who participate in the lottery. Tickets are now sold in 45 states. The odds of winning are 1 in 292 million.