Watseka Man Wins $400,000 ‘Lucky Day Lotto’ Prize

For Immediate Release Contact: Mike Lang

WATSEKA, IL—February 26, 2014—A retired carpenter whose hobbies include building birdhouses and listening to old 45 rpm phonograph records has claimed a $400,000 prize from the February 4 midday Lucky Day Lotto drawing. The winner, John Sarajew of Watseka, is a regular Lotto and Lucky Day Lotto player. He purchased his winning “quick pick” ticket at Scotchmons West (750 W. Walnut, Watseka), which will receive a $4,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.


Sarajew, 70, discovered he won after scanning his ticket at Scotchmons, and was so surprised and affected by the win that when he returned home to tell his wife, Marge, he was visibly shaking and could only manage to whisper the good news to his wife. The whisper, however caught Marge’s attention--and she knew immediately he was serious about the win. “This is going to make it easier for us to survive,” said Marge.

Future plans for some of the winnings include a bathroom remodel and kitchen floor update in the couple’s Watseka home. John said they will also share some of the winnings with his two adult daughters and a brother who lives in New Jersey.

The couple also plan to donate part of their winnings to children’s and veteran’s charities, as well as a local food bank. The actual check Sarajew will receive will be for $280,000, after required state and federal withholding.  

Sarajew has led an interesting and well-traveled life.  He was born in Russia and emigrated with his family to the U.S. at 9 years of age in 1952.  He spent most of his adult life in New Jersey, where he became a union carpenter and raised his two young daughters.  He and his wife moved to Watseka in 2005 to be near his wife’s hometown of Hoopeston. Their Watseka home is graced with a big yard that is home to hundreds of brown finches, thanks to the 20-plus birdhouses that John has built for his wife on their property.

Sarajew drove to Springfield to present the winning ticket to Lottery officials on February 6. Initially, he kept the winning ticket in his truck’s sun visor; but that changed immediately after he scanned the ticket and learned its winning status. He says the win feels a bit surreal at this point, and won’t feel 100 percent authentic until the check arrives and is deposited in his account—something that should happen within the next two to three weeks.


About Illinois Lottery

Founded in 1974, the Illinois Lottery has contributed over $18 billion to the state’s Common School Fund to assist K-12 public schools, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars to the Capital Projects Fund and to special causes like Illinois Veterans, the fight against breast cancer, MS research, and assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to playing in-store, the Illinois Lottery offers online and mobile play for Mega Millions, Powerball and Lotto at Players must be at least 18 years old.