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Waukegan man wins $3 million in lottery

Harold GibsWaukegan (left) celebrates after winning $3000000 Illinois Lottery's second chance drawing with Merry Millionaire along with Hitesh Patel manager

Harold Gibson of Waukegan (left) celebrates after winning $3,000,000 in the Illinois Lottery's second chance drawing with Merry Millionaire, along with Hitesh Patel, the manager of Dave's Liquor in Waukegan where Gibson bought the ticket, and Jovanna Levy, a marketing and communications specialist with Northstar Lottery Group on Tuesday in Dave's Liquor in Waukegan. Patel received a $30,000 bonus check for selling the winning ticket. Gibson bought the scratch-off ticket in October and didn't win, then entered the ticket in the second chance drawing and won. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Harold Gibson knew he had something when he returned to Dave’s Liquors in Waukegan with his winning Merry Millionaire Second-Chance ticket from the Illinois Lottery and showed it to owner Hitesh Patel.

He just underestimated his good fortune.

“Harold came in one day, I think it was a (Friday) morning,” Patel recalled, “and he showed me his paperwork and said, ‘Is this $300,000?’ And I said, ‘No, dude — that’s $3 million.’”

“I remember it was a Friday the 13th,” Gibson said of the encounter earlier this month. “Luckiest Friday the 13th of my life.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Patel, adding that he wasn’t sure at that time what, if anything, his store would receive for selling the ticket.

Lottery officials made everything official with ceremonial oversized checks outside Dave’s Liquors on Tuesday: one to Gibson for $3 million, and the other for the store for $30,000 — 1 percent of the winnings.

It’s a store where Gibson has enjoyed quite a bit of luck.

“I’ve won before. I won $4,000 twice, $2,500, a thousand,” said Gibson, though his biggest windfall actually started with a loss — the Second-Chance game invited players to mail in their non-winning tickets by March 31 for a one-time drawing on April 11. Gibson recalled the moment he learned his name had been drawn.

“It was surreal. It’s still surreal right now. It’s still like it’s not happening, but I know it is,” he said. “Actually, last night was the first night that I had a good night’s sleep since I won. I’ve been running on adrenaline.”

Asked if he’s had a chance to do anything with his money yet, Gibson, who is retired, said he bought a house with an in-ground pool. When asked where, he smiled and said with an air of mystery, “It’s in Illinois.” Lottery officials reported that Gibson also donated 10 percent of his winnings to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Waukegan.

Among the friends gathered for Tuesday’s ceremony was Vanessa Kelly, whose son is Gibson’s nephew. She said the Lottery jackpot “couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” As she snapped photos of Gibson and Patel posing with their commemorative checks, another friend, Michael Humphrey, joked that Gibon’s luck might rub off if they stood close enough.

Patel said afterward that if there is any secret to Gibson’s success, it’s that he makes the lottery part of his routine.

“He pretty much plays all the games,” Patel said. “I’ve had this feeling all my life that when it’s your turn, it’s your turn. You’ve got to have patience.”

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