By Ted Waddell
FISHKILL Two million bucks is a lot of dough, particularly if youre the winner of a couple of million dollars in a lottery scratch-off game.
On Nov. 1, the NYS Lottery launched its New York Instant Millions game, a new series of scratch-off tickets with a maximum prize of $2 million.
And Sullivan County has the games first big winner.
Dane Clarke of Monticello, a 48-year-old single father of two who was recently partially disabled by a stroke, walked into a local convenience store a few days before Christmas and bought a $5 Instant Millions ticket a ticket that will make a lot of dreams come true for the former Loch Sheldrake maintenance worker and his family.
When Clarke got home, he scratched off what turned out to be the winning numbers under the aptly titled wording, Jackpot. At first, he couldnt believe it, so Clarke asked Christine Brown, the babysitter for his kids, to look at the ticket, and yes, it was the ticket to riches.
After checking the numbers again at another convenience store, on Dec. 27, Clarke quietly traveled to lottery headquarters in Schenectady to verify the winning ticket.
Clarke isnt a stranger to the NYS Lottery, as he won $2,500 a couple of years ago and buys lottery tickets every day. But in a stroke of what might be called beginners luck, this was the first time he ever bought one of the new scratch game tickets.
I normally dont play scratch-off games, said Clarke. I couldnt believe it when they told me Id won $2,000,000.
Clarke purchased the winning ticket at the Monticello Exxon Taco Maker, a convenience store/gas station owned by three brothers: Rajanna Kottour, Abdul Azia and Shamsuddin Punjani.
Hes a very nice customer, said Kottour. He comes in almost every day. Im glad he won.
And talk about a long shot: the odds of winning the top $2 million prize in the states newest $70 million game were 1 in 4.32 million.
Clarke, who routinely plays the Lotterys popular Take 5 game, will get 20 annual payments of $100,000 (before the tax man takes his bite out of the winnings).
Friend Elva Tullock of Silver Springs, Md., was on hand at a special ceremony at the New York State Lottery office in Fishkill on Thursday, where lottery officials made it official and handed Clarke his first check.
I used to lecture him about playing too much, she said. This has shut me up. Im very happy for him because hes been incapacitated for a year now, and money sure does help. Im glad theres finally some sunshine in his life.
Margaret R. DeFrancisco, director of the New York State Lottery, made the presentation of a symbolic $2 million check to the lucky winner, as well as giving a $1,000 check to Sandra Scheuer, principal of the George L. Clarke Elementary School in Monticello. Every time someone wins $1 million or more, the NYS Lottery Department randomly selects a school in the winners ZIP code to receive a $1,000 credit to be used toward computer equipment.
Even though the lottery is about winning, its really about education, said DeFrancisco. All of the winners are super people, and the money seems to come at the right time for all of them.
I get to feel like Santa Claus twelve months a year, she added, noting that most big winners think about a new car, a trip, education or investing after learning they won big bucks in the lottery.
Better yet, theres a connection between Clarke and the school. According to Scheuer, who is in the midst of helping the Monticello School District implement a comprehensive technology program, Nanette Clarke attends second grade at Cooke.
Dane Clarke is the 1,505th person to strick it rich in the New York Lottery since its inception.
Even though she didnt get a chance to announce the winner of the scratch-off game over the air, the Lotterys vivacious Yolanda Vega attended the celebration. Next month marks Vegas 11th year announcing lottery winners on television across the state.
Winning is a realization of all dreams possible, she said. Its things that people need, from the bare essentials to their wildest dreams.
Casting a sideways glance at the stunning Vega, Clarke said, Its been a real thrill meeting Yolanda.
Still, Clarke seemed to take the whole thing in stride, and although he was a little nervous in front of all the cameras, he said he hasnt heard from any long-lost relatives.
And forget ordering a Ferrari and trips to France. The former maintenance man has modest plans for his newfound wealth. According to Clarke, hes thinking about taking his seven-year-old daughter Nanette and his stepson, 12-year-old Jamel Barnes, to Disney World in sunny Florida. Karate lessons and a computer are on the list, as well as a new house to replace their small apartment.