When Arthur Fingas took a phone call and first learned that he had won more than a half million dollars, he thought it was a joke.
"I didn’t believe him at the time," Fingas said. "I thought he was kidding me, and I kept telling him that."
The caller insisted it was true, and asked if Fingas, 85, had a family member who could be contacted to confirm the win.
"I told him I had a son at Inglis. That was how they tried to confirm it. It’s funny."
But the caller wasn’t lying. The lifelong western Manitoba farmer, who now resides in Russell, had just won the largest 50/50 prize in Manitoba Hospital Lottery history, totalling $521,625. The prize was announced on April 10 as part of the St-Boniface Hospital Foundation’s 2014 Mega Million Choices Lottery.
"This is the first time (the 50/50) went over a million," foundation president and CEO Chuck LaFlèche told the Sun. "Manitobans just love 50/50s."
Fingas has been playing the hospital lottery for more than a decade, but he says he never expected to win. He has always seen the lottery as a chance to make a donation to a worthy cause.
"I always say to them, ‘I’ll donate.’ I’m always donating," Fingas said.
With his win, Fingas can now spread his generosity to his family as well. He has already decided to give a substantial part of his winnings to his children and grandchildren.
But he has held back enough of the cash to have a little fun for himself, too.
"I want a new truck, new TV, and there’s lots of other things I want to get," he said with a laugh.
Fingas was originally supposed to go into Winnipeg to collect his prize on Saturday, but a heavy snowfall prevented the trip.
But instead of having the lucky senior make the trip another day, LaFlèche drove out with his vice-president of finance, Don Barnabé, to hand deliver the cheque.
"They’re a really nice couple of guys," Fingas said.
» Twitter: @MattGoerzen