Powerball Winner Thomas Cook Makes Good on a Decades-Old Promise

If you made a promise to a friend twenty years ago, would you still honour it? Too often, we hear stories about how winning the lottery destroys friendships and tears families apart. Fortunately, every now and then you hear about someone like Powerball winner Thomas Cook, who only made a long-time friendship even stronger by making good on a decades-old promise to a fellow lotto enthusiast.

Powerball Winner Thomas Cook with Friend Joe Feeney and Wives Holding Oversized ChequeWho Is Thomas Cook?

Thomas Cook is a man from Elk Mound, Wisconsin, who became a lottery legend in July 2020 when his story about winning the lottery made headlines. Cook was a regular lotto player, buying tickets every week along with his good friend Joseph Feeney. Cook and Feeney, two long-time friends, once made a promise back in 1992 that if either of them ever won the US Powerball jackpot, they would have to split the winnings between them. However, neither of the men thought they ever had a real shot at that win. Not many people would, as the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.

Cook bought the lucky ticket from a gas station in Menomonie, Wisconsin. After the prize was claimed, the retailer was awarded a tidy sum of $100,000 for selling the big winner to the June 10th, 2020, drawing. Though Cook always bought a ticket, he never thought he’d be a winner, and told the Wisconsin Lottery in an interview that he froze after seeing that the first two or three numbers matched his ticket.

When he learned of his good fortune, Cook was at the breakfast table with his wife. After seeing the first few matching numbers, he passed the ticket over to his wife, who also froze at what she was seeing. Once he realized that all five winning numbers and the Powerball matched his ticket, the first call he made was to his good friend Joseph Feeney. Upon hearing the news, Feeney—an avid fisher—reportedly couldn’t believe his friend’s luck either, asking Cook, “Are you jerking my bobber?” Of course, this is a very common reaction among family members and friends of lottery winners—something the husband of EuroMillions winner Charlotte Peart can certainly attest to.

What Did Thomas Cook Do With His Winnings?

After finding out that he was the lucky winner, one of Cook’s first thoughts was of his friend Feeney and the promise they’d made to each other 28 years earlier. Cook said that when they made the deal so many years ago, they sealed it with a handshake. Never one to go back on a handshake, he followed through on his promise and informed Feeney that they’d be splitting the jackpot. Feeney not only couldn’t believe that his friend had won, but also couldn’t believe that Cook was going to follow through on their old deal. We hear a lot about the power of friendship, but how often does that bond turn you into a multimillionaire?

How Much Money Did Thomas Cook Win?

Thomas Cook won a $22 million jackpot, making him the 18th Powerball winner from Wisconsin since the state first started offering the game in 1992—the year the two friends made their promise to each other. Cook’s win was the first state win since a record-setting jackpot of $768.4 million was won the year before, in March 2019.

Cook and Feeney decided that they would take the cash option instead of the annuity, leaving them with a jackpot prize of about $16.7 million. After paying the requisite state and federal taxes, each man took home approximately $5.7 million—not a bad payday for a nearly 30-year-old handshake!

How Did Thomas and Joe Plan to Spend the Money?

After his win, Cook gave his two weeks’ notice at work and decided to retire. Prior to the win, Feeney had already retired from his job at the fire department. Neither of the men planned to spend their new fortune on extravagant purchases, instead using their windfall for further security during their retirement.

Cook, who is a grandfather and a great-grandfather, told media that he planned to spend more time with his family, with Feeney echoing those sentiments. Both men said that they also planned to spend the money on some travel, and any other pursuits that they feel comfortable with now that they had the financial freedom to do what they want. Cook told interviewers that he couldn’t think of a better way to retire, and we have to say we agree—as we are certain all other lottery winners would too.


More often than not, winning the lottery turns into more of a curse than a dream, as large sums of money can often create bad blood between winners and their friends and even family. That is why it is so endearing to hear about this special bond between two friends who shared a decades-long love of playing the lottery. We can only hope that Thomas Cook and Joseph Feeney continue to share their good fortune and good friendship for many more years to come.

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