The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Thursday, March. 2, 2000


Down-to-earth lottery winner plans to keep working 2 jobs

By Tom Fontaine
Herald Staff Writer

Winning $1 million is like deer hunting, according to Dana Wagner. He should know, he’s done both.

“You have to be in the right place at the right time. It was luck,” the 35-year-old West Middlesex man said.

Wagner accepted a jumbo-sized $1 million check from the Pennsylvania Lottery Wednesday at Tic Toc Food Mart in Hermitage, and smiled.

Wagner won the money in December on the scratch-off instant lottery ticket game Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune. Wagner bought the $5 ticket at Tic Toc, where he stopped to buy gas and a few lottery tickets.

The store hosted about a dozen of Wagner’s family members and friends and several officials for the ceremonial giant check passing. Some customers also stopped to ogle the $1 million check, which Wagner said he will hang up at home.

Wagner scratched off the winning ticket as he drove home. Wagner didn’t wreck or pull over to the side of the road when he discovered he’d hit the mother lode. But, he added, “I started to cry. I ain’t afraid to admit that.”

Wagner defied one-in-1,200,000 odds to win the game’s biggest payoff. Coincidentally, last year was a lucky one for Wagner — he also won a $1,000 shopping spree at Lowe’s in Hermitage. After realizing he won, “I drove straight home and yelled for a family meeting,” Wagner said. His wife, Brenda, found the announcement difficult to believe at first. The children asked for skateboards, Wagner added. “Then we were, like, ‘What are we going to do with the money?’” Wagner said.

But Wagner’s priorities are clear; his biggest responsibility is his family. “Family comes first. It is my responsibility to take care of my family,” he said.

Wagner was already doing that. He has two jobs — a full-time job at Wheatland Tube Co. and a part-time job at Joy Cone Co., Hermitage.

The newfound money, of course, helps. The top priority is ensuring his children never have to worry about paying back a college loan, he said.

After the federal government takes a 28 percent cut, Wagner said he will also use the money to add onto the family home.

Wagner intends to keep both of his jobs. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” he said. Wagner said he wants to teach his two children the value of a strong work ethic and he has responsibilities at work — just like everybody else.

Wagner’s friends aren’t surprised: “Winning hasn’t changed him. He’s a regular guy. We’re all real happy for him,” one said.

“We all talk about it. We all think about it. But when you win, everything changes,” Wagner said, hinting at the difference between the fantasy and the reality of winning the lottery. Wagner said the phone rings more often, the daily pace seems more hectic and a couple new friends have sprouted up since he won the lottery.

Wagner said he plans “to hibernate for a few weeks” after the media exposes his lottery win. In addition to working, Wagner finds time to “become involved in whatever my kids are doing.” Wagner has been a Cub Master for four years, and coached youth soccer and baseball. Christine Pontoriero, the western deputy marketing director for the Pennsylvania Lottery, officially forked over the money.

Jack Cardwell, a district lottery representative and Sharpsville councilman, was also on hand — and grinning like he was the one who won $1 million. “I like this part of the job,” Cardwell said.

Cardwell said the winnings won’t break the lottery’s bank, but added that it was the largest payoff he handed out in 10 years

State Rep. Michael C. Gruitza, Hermitage, 7th District, was also on hand Wednesday. “It’s exciting,” he said. “My only advice would be to be prudent with the money, but Dana seems to have a very good handle on it. His priorities are in order.”

But Dana does have one quirky dream that the money can make come true. “I want to go to Chicago and see the Jerry Springer show,” he said with a smile. His wife just rolled her eyes. Money doesn’t change some things.

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