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UWRF student and mother wins Wisconsin Powerball Lottery

October 15, 2015

UWRF student Pamela Dwyer won the September 30th Powerball Lottery for $1 million. 48-year-old Dwyer is a non-traditional student with two grown children, a love of running, and a kind demeanor. She is getting her bachelor’s degree at River Falls.

For anyone who’s ever had dreams of winning the lottery, Dwyer’s story is like a dream come true. The former legal assistant had recently been laid off, and although she did procure a new job, it wasn’t in the same financial range as her previous one. “I was a little stressed about how our budget was going to meet with this,” she admits.

The strangest thing about Dwyer’s experience is that she is not a habitual purchaser of lottery tickets. “I don’t buy lottery tickets,” she says. “I don’t know what possessed me to buy two that day. I was just at the customer service desk here,” she gestures to the desk in Family Fresh Market, in downtown River Falls, “paying for two items I needed to get to make the dinner I was planning for that night, and for whatever reason, I said, ‘Yeah, give me two Powerball tickets.’”

Dwyer didn’t check her tickets immediately; they weren’t on her mind. “I didn’t check my tickets Wednesday night, because I’d kind of forgotten I’d bought them,” she remembers. “…So it was Thursday evening. I was sitting on the couch. My husband had gone upstairs for something, and…a Minnesota lottery commercial came on.”

“I said, ‘Oh, that’s right, I have tickets to check,’” she remembers. “I go stand by the table, where my purse is, and I have my cell phone with the winning numbers open, and the ticket in the other hand…and I’m like, ‘Something looks odd here.’”

At first, Dwyer says, she didn’t understand that hers was the winning ticket. “It just wasn’t computing that everything was matching up, and as my husband came down the stairs, I said, ‘Look at this. Something looks odd here,’ and he’s like, ‘You know, someone from River Falls won a million dollars, I saw it on the Journal,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, well, that’s great, but look at my ticket, something’s odd here!’”

“I think it just took a good hour for it to even sink in, that I had actually won the money, and until then, I wasn’t gonna believe it until I cashed the ticket in,” Dwyer recalls. “I was actually stunned. This can’t be real! But it’s real.”

Dwyer says she feels “overwhelmed” about the knowledge that she won. “Overwhelmed, but relieved,” she clarifies, “because…I’m taking a different job, with a pay cut, and I’ve been unemployed for the past two months. Just because of where we’ve been in our life, we haven’t really had the opportunity to put away money for retirement, and so getting to the age I am…I feel like a ‘reset’ button was pushed on my life.”

Dwyer describes the effect that the money has had on the lives of herself and her husband. “We paid off our cars, and our credit card debt…pretty much everything we could pay off, we paid off. It is such a relieving feeling.”

She continues, “I have had a rough past few years where, you know, I’ve had a streak of bad luck. And some of that’s caused us to run up some medical bills, so I guess that it was just so nice; paid off all the medical bills, pushed that ‘reset.’”

Dwyer’s not going to “go crazy,” she interjects. “I still have my job. We’re not taking any wild trips anywhere; we’re just gonna be smart and invest the money…we are gonna buy a house, but other than that…it’s just going to be, hopefully, life as normal, with a lot less stress.”

The reaction from her family and friends, Dwyer says, has been great. “Quite honestly, they’ve all been so positive, saying that they couldn’t have picked someone who deserved it more,” she says. “I don’t know if anyone deserves to win a million dollars, or how they justified that… So everyone has been very supportive.”

Regarding her friends: “They’ve all just been…just really heartwarming about it. Regarding her family: “It took a while for my kids to actually believe it,” she remarks with a smile.

“I guess if anyone were to believe in God, or karma, or the universe, or whatever it is–you know, because I think everyone has their own beliefs, but–it’s just, wow, because the week before [last week], I just said to my husband, ‘You know, maybe I should sell my car, and get a cheaper car,’ because like I said, we’re looking at how to make up the difference in our budget, of where my new job was gonna take us.”

She pauses and laughs. “It was seriously like someone answering a prayer.”