They say promises are meant to be broken, but that isn’t the case for these two friends from Wisconsin. Twenty-eight years ago, longtime pals Tom Cook and Joe Feeney made a vow: if either of them won the Powerball jackpot, they’d share the winnings – no matter who bought the ticket. So when Tom picked a ticket worth $22 million in late June, he knew he wasn’t the only winner. The kind of friendship they formed is something a lot of people would love to have.
Tom bought the $2 winning ticket from a Synergy Coop store in his Menominee hometown for the June 10 drawing. He realized he’d won while checking the numbers over breakfast shortly after purchasing it.
“It was quite an experience when I read those first two or three numbers,” he told Metro UK.
Tom said he “froze” upon reading the numbers and handed the ticket over to his wife, who was equally shocked. Upon realizing what just happened, Tom said the promise he and Joe made almost three decades ago was at the forefront of his mind. He called his friend to share with him the life-changing news.
“He called me and I said, ‘are you jerking my bobber?'” Joe, an avid fisherman, said of his reaction, according to the lottery’s press release.
Despite the 1 in 292,201,338 overall odds of winning the Powerball jackpot, Tom was far from kidding.
The pair has been playing Powerball weekly since it began in 1992. They made their split vow while imagining what they’d do with the cash if they won.
“That happened many years ago,” Tom said of their promise. “A handshake’s a handshake, man.”
Tom gave his two-weeks’ notice at work and immediately retired after the win. Joe, on the other hand, was already retired from the fire department.
The pals chose the cash option, which gave them approximately $16.7 million. They each took home about $5.7 million after federal and state taxes. They have no extravagant plans about the huge winnings, but both are looking forward to spending more time with their families.
“We can pursue what we feel comfortable with. I can’t think of a better way to retire,” Tom said.
He’s particularly excited about bonding with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and enjoying new experiences with them.
“I got grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and I’m looking forward to spending time with them, not worrying about if I got time to go, and where we can go, and [if we can] afford it,” he told PEOPLE.
Tom, Joe, and their wives used to go on road trips together in a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Now that they can afford to, they plan to upgrade their vehicle for future adventures.
According to the lottery, Tom and Joe’s win is Wisconsin’s 18th Powerball jackpot and the first one since March 2019, when the state had a whopping $768.4 million jackpot winner. The state also ranks fourth on the all-time list of most frequently winning states.
Wisconsin Lottery Director Cindy Polzin couldn’t be happier for the two.
“The power of friendship and a handshake has paid off,” she said in the press release. “I’m thrilled for them — their lucky day has arrived!”
The big question for these loyal players is this: will they keep playing Powerball after their big win? In Tom’s case, the answer is yes! In fact, he’s bought two more lottery tickets since.
“What can I lose?” he said.
Tom and Joe aren’t the only big winners. The Synergy Coop that sold the winning ticket also got an incentive of $100,000.
Watch Tom and Joe’s interview in the video below. This is the ultimate friendship goal!
Congratulations, Tom and Joe. Enjoy your winnings, and keep that friendship tight!