World War II veteran, 94, wins $300K in Michigan Lottery instant game

Ervin Smolinski with his Double Bonus Cashword check of $300,000. (Michigan Lottery)

CRAWFORD COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) - A 94-year-old World War II Navy veteran got the best birthday present: a Double Bonus Cashword instant game ticket worth $300,000.

Ervin Smolinski, of South Branch, turned 94 on March 17. He was shocked when he received the winning ticket worth $300,000 as a gift.

According to the Michigan Lottery, Smolinski's daughter-in-law bought the winning ticket at the CVS Pharmacy located at 22250 Middlebelt Road in Farmington Hills.

“Every month, I buy some instant tickets and send them as gifts to family members who have birthdays that month,” said Smolinski. “It’s turned into a bit of a tradition, and now everyone sends me scratch-offs and chocolate for my birthday.”

Smolinski told the Michigan Lottery that he remained calm after scratching off the big winner.

“I had four Double Bonus Cashword tickets and the big winner was the first one I scratched,” said Smolinski. “I’ve seen a lot in my time, and I don’t get worked up too easily. I think my son-in-law was more worked up than I was.”

For the next few days, Smolinski told the Michigan Lottery he kept checking to make sure he had the ticket and that what he was reading was real.

“I wanted to keep the ticket safe, so I kept it in my pocket,” said Smolinski. “I got a little nervous about that because a lot of time I’ll toss the paper I accumulate in my pocket into my wood burner. Luckily that didn’t happen with my ticket.”

Smolinski went to the Michigan Lottery headquarters on Tuesday to claim his big prize. He says he plans to invest, buy a new shed, and buy a newer used car.

“I’m pretty frugal, 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,” Smolinski said.

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