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Make It 2! Deli Worker Wins Lottery Again

The Nation

September 09, 2006|Carol MacGowan | Newsday

MELVILLE, N.Y. — Her boss might be the biggest loser. But Valerie Wilson is the biggest winner.

The Long Island, N.Y., deli worker, whose boss is a contestant on NBC's "The Biggest Loser," became a millionaire when she won the New York State Lottery's Jubilee scratch-off game.

But winning a million bucks is old hat for Wilson. She's done it twice now.

"The first time I couldn't believe it," Wilson said Friday. "This time I said, 'God's on my side.' "

Four years after winning the top prize in the Cool Million scratch-off game, lightning struck a second time for the 56-year-old grandmother from North Babylon. One of the four $10 tickets she bought Aug. 30 came up a winner, she said. She'll receive $50,000 a year for 20 years.

"I lost my husband in 1993, so I went to the cemetery and thanked him," Wilson said. "I figured he had something to do with it."

Fame seems as ordinary as bologna at Emma's Deli and Catering, where Wilson is a clerk. Store owner Erik Chopin will compete on NBC's popular weight-loss reality series, which has its season premiere Sept. 20.

Chopin said striking it rich didn't change Wilson's routine.

"I was surprised the next day when she came to work," he said. "We were saying, 'How can someone win twice?' But good things happen to good people."

The chance of winning Jubilee's million-dollar prize is 1 in 705,600. The chance of winning Cool Million was 1 in 5.2 million. The game was discontinued after Wilson won.

Wilson had just sold her Lynbrook deli when she first won on Sept. 18, 2002. She spread the wealth by buying homes for each of her three children.

"I gave away all my money," Wilson said.

Well, not all of it. "I bought myself a convertible," she said.

Chopin hired Wilson when he opened Emma's in 2004. She bought the winning ticket two doors down at Roopam Cards and Gifts, where she buys about $40 worth of tickets weekly.

Wilson said that she will keep working until December, when Chopin returns from "The Biggest Loser." Unlike last time, she'll use her winnings to pamper herself.

"This one is going to be for me," she said. "I'm going to live a little bit."

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