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Is This the Luckiest Man in America?

Frugal WWII vet hits the jackpot on 94th birthday

veteran wins lottery with birthday gift

Michigan Lottery

His tradition led to winning the biggest prize possible on an instant-game ticket in the Michigan Lottery.

Ervin Smolinski, a World War II veteran in Michigan, has made a habit of sending lottery tickets as birthday gifts to family members, prompting some to return the favor. It’s become a tradition, he said, “and now everyone sends me scratch-offs and chocolate for my birthday.”

The one that arrived this month from his daughter-in-law for his 94th birthday paid off big time: The winning instant-game ticket in the Michigan Lottery was worth $300,000, the biggest prize possible.

The South Branch resident accepted the news with calm gratitude. “I had four Double Bonus Cashword tickets, and the big winner was the first one I scratched,” Smolinski said in a statement reported by the contest’s website, Michigan Lottery Connect.

“I’ve seen a lot in my time, and I don’t get worked up too easily,” the Navy veteran said. “I think my son-in-law was more worked up than I was.”

What to do with all that money? Maybe buy a new shed and a newer used car, then invest the rest.

“I’m pretty frugal,” he said. “I always shop sales and take care of my money, and that won’t change. The only thing that will change is I won’t have as much stress in my life worrying about money."