- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - For two decades, Tom Rea of St. Louis played the same Powerball numbers.

It finally paid off - in a big way.

The Missouri Lottery on Wednesday introduced the 62-year-old Rea and his wife, Catherine Ruggeri-Rea, as winners of a $70 million Powerball jackpot from the July 4 drawing. The couple claimed the prize at the Missouri Lottery headquarters in Jefferson City on Friday.

The winning numbers, a combination of family birthdays, matched all five white balls and the Powerball. Rea purchased the winning ticket at a Gas Mart store on Hampton Avenue in south St. Louis.

“I’ve been playing those numbers every Wednesday and every Saturday for 23 years,” Rea said.

Rea learned of the win after taking his ticket back to the convenience store to scan it to see if he had won anything.

Boy, did he.

“I put it in there, and it said, ‘You won $70 million,’” he said. “So I wiped the ticket under my arm and tried it again. It said the same thing, so I asked the girl who was working there to check it for me. I told her I wanted to make sure my eyes weren’t seeing things.”

The clerk’s response: “She said, ‘Oh, my God, mister. You won!’” Rea said. “Then the manager came out and hugged me and shook my hand, and the girl was crying because she’d never sold such a big ticket.”

Rea, a building maintenance supervisor for the city of St. Louis, said he plans to retire immediately. His wife, who is the city’s courts administrator, plans to stay on the job through at least October.

Rea’s win marked the 31st time a Powerball jackpot has been won in Missouri.

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