Michigan winner braves snow to claim jackpot

RELEASE DATE: 2/27/2013

It was a long, snowy trip, but Judy Juntunen is not complaining. After all, who wouldn’t make the drive if at the end of the road a $19 million Mega Millions jackpot was waiting?

Juntunen, the sole winner of the February 5 Mega Millions jackpot, is used to some serious winter weather. She traveled nearly 500 miles in 10 hours to Lansing from her home in the Upper Peninsula town of Atlantic Mine, which has about 210 inches of snow on the ground, to turn in the ticket and claim her prize.

“I always hoped I would win but I never thought I would win a prize like this,” the lucky winner said.

Juntunen, who was born and raised in the UP, said her first purchase would be a new car, “one that will go through the snow better than what I have now.”

Juntunen, Michigan’s 16th multi-state jackpot winner, elected to take the $13.9 million cash value of the annuitized jackpot and after taxes, netted a tidy $9.8 million. Her ticket was a self-pick but the numbers had no special significance to her.

Juntunen first learned of her win when her granddaughter called after hearing that the winning ticket had been sold at Festival Foods, 47401 M 26, in neighboring Houghton.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” she said.

The winner’s son, who accompanied her to Lansing, said his mom called him with the good news. “My mind was pretty well shot for the rest of the day. I didn’t know whether to believe her or not.”

Juntunen’s daughter, who also traveled to Lansing, echoed the sentiment. “I thought she was joking.”

Festival Foods, a general grocery/hardware store where Juntunen regularly shops, will receive a $50,000 bonus check to mark the sale.

Michigan has had 16 multi-state winners, including 12 Mega Millions winners and two Powerball winners. The state’s last big winner—and its largest ever—was Donald Lawson, who snagged the $337 million Powerball jackpot on August 15.

Juntunen joins fellow Mega Millions winner Steve Mays of Gladstone, who won $140 million in October of 2010, as the UP’s top prize winners.

Mega Millions tickets are available in 42 states plus the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. In the February 5 drawing in which Juntunen had the jackpot winning ticket, an additional 19,000 Michigan players won prizes totaling over $103,000.

Over 97 cents of every dollar spent on Lottery tickets is returned to the state in the form of contributions to the state School Aid Fund, prizes to players and commissions to retailers. In fiscal year 2012, the contribution to schools was a record $778.4 million. Since its inception in 1972, the Lottery has contributed over $17 billion to education in Michigan.

For additional information, please visit the Lottery’s Web site at www.michiganlottery.com.

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