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Man Wins $1 Million Lottery, Dies Three Weeks Later

Studio shot of woman scratching lottery ticket

Three weeks after winning $1 million in New York's scratch-off Merry Millionaire lottery, Donald Savastano died suddenly in his home.

The 51-year-old native of Queens worked as a self-employed carpenter. According to his obituary, Savastano "was known for his high-quality work and perfectionism. He always tried to reach out and help those he could by teaching them 'the right way to do things.'"

Three weeks before his death, Savastano collected the money he had won from the lottery. Accepting a one-time payout, he received $661,800. Savastano told ABC7: "I'm probably going to go get a new truck, and I don't know, probably go on vacation." He planned to set the remainder aside for retirement.

One other expense he used his winnings on was a long-needed visit to the doctor. ABC7 interviewed Danielle Scott, who works at the store where he bought the winning ticket: "He was self-employed. ... He didn't have insurance, he hadn't been feeling good for a while, I guess, and when he got the money he went to the doctor."

At the doctor, Savastano was told that he had stage IV cancer. He was immediately hospitalized.

"'He had a friend come and talk to me, and they told me that he was very sick and that he had brain and lung cancer and that he was in the hospital and they didn't think he was gonna make it,' Scott said."

From his obituary:

Don lived in Sidney for the past 10 years with his loving girlfriend of almost 12 years, Julie Wheeler and helped her raise her boys, Alex and Kaspar Gray. He is also survived by his mother, Annette Savastano Dart (James); four brothers, John, Charles, Louis and Doug Savastano and their families; two sisters, Debbie Legat and Cindy Savastano and their families. He was predeceased by his father, John Savastano. May they be together again in heaven for Don had been very close to him and missed him dearly. Don was thought of as a wonderful and even an angelic person by those who knew him and will be greatly missed but to see him again when time.

This tragic story has at least two takeaways.

For starters, visit the doctor. We are blessed to live during a period in history in which medicine and science has seen great advances. Don't run the risk of letting small problems turn into big problems or letting big problems turn into tragic problems.

Second, life is short. We all know that intellectually, but we frequently fail to let that realization create changes in our life. No one is promised tomorrow, much less the next three weeks. Take the time today to enjoy your loved ones. Play with your kids. Go on a date with your spouse. Do something that will positively impact those around you. No amount of money that you leave behind will be an adequate replacement for time spent with your loved ones.