It may have been Friday the 13th, but Julie Hemstreet had a good feeling early on the morning of Sept. 13.
The 64-year-old Tribes Hill resident stopped for gas at the Stewart’s Shop in Fort Johnson on her regular commute to Liberty in Amsterdam. At the checkout counter, she noticed a Cash Blowout lottery ticket.
“It just sort of caught my eye,” she said.
An hour later, while her clients at Liberty ate breakfast, she scratched off the ticket and found she had won $1 million. She retired the next Monday.
Hemstreet was awarded her money Wednesday in the same Stewart’s Shop where she bought the ticket. A handful of friends and family members gathered to see state lottery representative Yolanda Vega hand over the big check.
Lottery personnel set up big speakers to reach every corner of the small store.
“What are you going to do with all your money?” Vega asked.
Hemstreet thought for a while, still a bit dazed by the experience.
“I’d like to have a good time with it,” she said.
For Hemstreet, the money is a welcome reprieve from a lifetime of hard work. For 24 years, she worked split shifts six days a week taking care of handicapped Liberty clients.
The occasional lottery ticket was a glimmer of excitement. The prize, $549,294 after taxes, means freedom.
According to a lottery employee, the odds of winning a $1 million jackpot are 1 in 2,595,600.
Kim Pelosi was working the register Sept. 13, as she has for three years. She remembers when Hemstreet walked i,n and what happened next. The shop was busy, and Pelosi motioned Hemstreet over to a second register. Hemstreet bought a $5 Cash Blowout ticket from Pelosi but also demanded the ticket she’d originally noticed at the front register.
“People are very superstitious,” he said, “especially on Friday the 13th.”
The superstition paid off.
Hemstreet said she plans to have a good time with the money, but her idea of a good time, aside from a trip to the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, seems downright responsible.
“I’m going to get my husband a 1934 Allis Chalmers tractor,” she said. “He’s wanted one for years.”
That tractor, which they found for sale in Texas, cost only about $1,000. They’re also planning trips to South Carolina and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
“But I won’t give up my home in Tribes Hill,” she said. “I have too many friends and family.”
When asked, she couldn’t name something she might buy simply for herself.
Back from the cameras and speakers, Lawrence Michalski leaned against the beer coolers. Of the few gathered friends, he was the newest.
“I’m just her car salesmen,” he said. “She asked me to come down.”
Just hours after scratching the winning ticket and having it verified, Hemstreet stopped by Herba Nissan in Johnstown to buy her husband, Robert, a truck.
“You’d think someone who just won $1 million would buy a big truck,” he said. “They bought a 4-by-2 Nissan Frontier, just the base model. It didn’t even have power windows or locks. She really has her head on straight.”