George Munro always dreamed of making the slogan Freedom 55 his retirement plan.
After a fateful pit stop at a local corner store in Merritt, he and wife Rowena Inyallie now have 26- million reasons to do so much earlier in life.
The Merritt residents won the $25.9-million jackpot in the Feb. 22 Lotto Max draw when their $6 quick pick ticket matched all seven numbers: 6, 31, 33, 34, 43, 44 and 46.
The 39-year-old Munro and 46-year-old Inyallie were all smiles as a swarm of employees and media gathered on Wednesday at BC Lottery Corporation headquarters in Kamloops, where they were presented a giant cheque for the massive payout.
“I think we’re still walking on clouds,” Inyallie said. “It’s changed our lives hugely.”
Munro purchased the ticket from Shah’s Courtesy Corner Store in Lower Nicola last Friday while buying cranberry juice and chocolate bars following a hard day’s work at Drillwell Enterprises — a contractor at Highland Valley Copper.
En route home to his wife, the winning ticket was almost never purchased. It wasn’t on Munro’s shopping list until the clerk at the till asked if he wanted one for that night’s draw.
“I look at him for one second and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take one,’” Munro said.
He ended up checking two tickets the next day.
“I always say quick pick. Luck of the draw,” said Munro, noting he has never before won more than $20 from lottery tickets.
A scan of the first ticket brought up a “Sorry, not a winner” message, but the second scanned ticket resulted in something else altogether.
“The numbers went by. I went, ‘Holy cow, I think I won 25,000 bucks,” Munro said to a chorus of laughs at BCLC. “I was happy with that, so I scanned it again, but this time I was right close and I was like, ‘That’s way more than 25,000 bucks.’”
Munro was at the Adelphi Hotel when checking his tickets, while his wife was at a nearby bank.
He said he had a smile on his face when he rushed outside to tell Inyallie, who replied, “Don’t joke with me.”
The two celebrated their win with a big house party that weekend.
“It was the only way we could sleep,” Inyallie quipped.
Munro plans to quit his job at Drillwell, but has decided to continue working until a replacement can be found — a decision he made because the company hired him during hard times two years ago, when he lost his job after the Tolko sawmill closed in 2016.
He said the jackpot comes at the perfect time, as he was thinking there was no way he could continue doing his physically demanding job for another 20 years.
“This year it’s Freedom 40,” Munro told KTW.
The husband and wife have two daughters in their 20s and two young grandchildren, with whom they plan to spend a lot more time.
Inyallie said her daughters were “both in shock” when she told them the news.
The parents have already started spending the money, having purchased a Ford F350 and Ford Mustang Shelby.
“I always wanted a sports car,” Munro said.
They also plan to renovate their house and purchase some property, but they want to speak with a financial advisor first. They also want to remain in their hometown of Merritt.
Munro said they plan to share the money with friends and family who have always been there for them.
“They know who they are,” he said.
The store at which the winning ticket was purchased has become a lucky charm in recent years.
Shehbaz Bhown, owner of Shah’s, said the store will receive a $2,000 prize as well, which comes at an opportune time as the store was robbed last week.
It is not the first time the corner store has sold a winning ticket. Merritt’s Mitchell Shuter won more than $11 million in 2013 with a Lotto 6/49 ticket he purchased at Shah’s Courtesy Corner Store.