ST. ALBERT— Edmonton’s mystery multimillion-dollar lottery winner is a mystery no longer.
With a big smile and some nervous laughter Joanne Tsetta, 40, an unemployed mother of two, finally came forward Thursday to accept a cheque for $20,664,575.
The bonanza is the other half of the massive March 20 Lotto 6-49 jackpot that was claimed last week by a woman from Ontario.
Tsetta, who move to Edmonton from Yellowknife last year to complete her Grade 12 and to enrol her children in school, said the windfall will help her family live more comfortably. But she has no immediate plans for a big spending spree.
“Even though I have won all this money it is not going to change it,” she said at a news conference.
“Yes, I have a few extra dollars in my pocket but it is not going to change who I am as a person. I’ve been raised by good family. I value that.”
Tsetta purchased her Quick Pick ticket at a family restaurant and then forgot to check her numbers after the March 20 draw.
A few days later she finally remembered to reach into her purse during a visit to a neighbourhood Esso station and scan two tickets she had bought. The first was a loser. The second was a winner. And what a winner.
Initially, she thought she had won $200,000. Then she figured it was $2 million. Then a stranger looked at her validated ticket and told her she was a multimillionaire.
Tsetta didn’t scream or cheer. Instead she quietly placed her winning ticket back in her wallet and walked out the door.
Her biggest worry was about all the media attention her win would attract, especially when Edmonton news outlets started reporting about a “mystery woman” who had won half of the big Lotto 6-49 jackpot.
“I thought, ’Oh no, the media is going to hound me!,” she said. She then broke the news to her children and her aunt, Shirley Tsetta.
Shirley said that while Joanne seems nonplussed by her massive win, she has been so excited she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in days.
“I couldn’t believe it. She said, ’Did you hear about the mystery woman?’ I said no. I didn’t know what she was talking about. And then she said, ’the mystery woman is me. I am the one who won the $20 million.’ I remember jumping, yelling and screaming,” she said.
“I haven’t been sleeping for the past three days. I’ve been doing all of the worrying for her. She seems calm but I am a wreck.”
Joanne Tsetta’s low-key response to becoming a multimillionaire after living on employment insurance cheques was similar to that of Bonnie Preece, a part-time supermarket cashier from London, Ont., who claimed her $20 million share of the lottery prize last week.
Preece, 49, said when she won the lottery prize she had less than $100 in her bank account. She said she was forced to declare bankruptcy a few years ago after her first marriage ended. She couldn’t even get a credit card.
Tsetta said she will take plenty of time to decide what to do after she finishes her high school diploma this summer. Her win is the largest ever for an individual in Alberta.
“Right now I’m not sure what I am going to do. I am just going to spend time with my family and just go with the flow,” she said.
The Canadian record for a Lotto 6-49 prize is $54.3 million won in 2005 by 17 people in Camrose, Alta. The biggest single ticket win in Ontario was $40.5 million in 2008.