A funny thing happened to Patricia "Patti" Neadow on her way to the hospital. She stopped at a convenience store and bought a $5 instant lottery ticket, scratched off the numbers and won $1 million.
The 62-year-old store clerk was going to Newfane Inter-Community Memorial Hospital to be fitted with a heart monitor. She had to telephone the hospital to change her appointment.
"My heart is beating so fast right now you wouldn't get an accurate reading," she remembered telling the nurse.
That was more than two years ago, when Neadow was a cashier at the Lakeside IGA market in Wilson and lived in a mobile home park.
Today, with all that extra money, Neadow is a cashier at the Lakeside IGA market and lives in a mobile home park.
Granted, it's a newer mobile home in a nicer park. She and her husband, Douglas, gave the old mobile home in which they had lived for 19 years to a niece in Niagara Falls and moved into a new place in the Rainbow Mobile Home Park off Route 93 in central Niagara County.
"It's beautifully landscaped," she said. "There are trees everywhere."
Her husband is still an electrician for Chemical Waste Management in the Town of Porter, a job he has had for 23 years.
"Winning didn't change our lives, not really," she said. "It just made things easier. It's like having another paycheck."
Her only spending spree after winning was to buy a brand-new Toyota SUV and pay off the $9,000 owed on her husband's Ford truck. "That was our one big extravagance," she said.
The Neadows have five grown children, 13 grandchildren and a new great-grandchild.
"One good thing to come out of this is Christmastime," she said. "The kids get more than they used to get."
Neadow was the first person in the state to win the then-new instant game's top prize of $1 million.
She bought the ticket at the Porter County Mart on Ransomville Road. She said the ticket was sticking out from the others, as though someone had started to take it and tried to put it back. Neadow scratched off the number 18 and said she asked the store clerk, "What does this mean, jackpot?"
Another clerk came over, Neadow recalled, and told her, "Patti, you just won a million dollars."
It was July 12, 2002, 10 days before her birthday -- an early birthday present, she called it. The now-defunct Double Eagle lottery ticket did not give the player the option of a full cash payment, as Lotto tickets do. Instead, she receives $50,000 a year, which amounts to $32,000 after taxes, for 20 years.
Neadow said she and her husband had been talking a few weeks earlier about what they would do when they retired. "But we didn't have the money to go anywhere," she said.
Now they do. They still haven't gone anywhere, and didn't retire.
"I love working here," said the richest cashier at the Lakeside IGA. "The people are so great. I'd miss them too much."
She said that she still takes a lot of ribbing from the customers but that she gives as good as she gets. "They kid around with her, and she kids around with them," said store manager Gerald Kadryna. "She's very personable and gets along with everybody. She's part of our family."
Neadow has three sisters who live in Florida. They keep asking her to move down there, but she likes it here. She likes the change in seasons.
One big thing in the life of the Neadows is going to see their 10-year-old grandson, Corey, a Lewiston-Porter fourth-grader, play hockey with Niagara University's Squirt League.
Neadow no longer needs the heart monitor she was going to be fitted with that lucky day.
"You might say I'm healthy, wealthy and staying put," she said.
Or, as Kadryna put it: "She's the same old Patti."