20200111-news-wyolotto-ns-1

Gale, left, holding her chihuahua, Izzy, and Judy from the Star Valley area accept a check for $811,058 from WyoLotto CEO Jon Clontz Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, at WyoLotto headquarters in downtown Cheyenne. The pair laughed as they told the story of their friendship and how they decided to split any money they won from playing the lottery. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – It was almost 25 years ago when Judy and Gale met.

“She saved my life” is how Gale will describe their first encounter, nonchalantly, as if they met while getting coffee.

The two women (who are withholding their last names for privacy reasons) met when Gale was sick with E. coli. Judy, then a firefighter, saved the woman who would become one of her best friends.

It was just the first of two life-changing moments the two women would experience together.

The second one didn’t necessarily save their lives, but it’s not a stretch to say it will definitely change theirs to an extent.

Gale and Judy are the winners of a nearly $1 million jackpot from Cowboy Draw, one of the games presented by WyoLotto.

It’s a pretty typical lottery game: You either do “quick pick,” where the ticket terminal generates up to 10 random numbers for you, or you can pick two sets of five numbers for $5.

Gale bought the ticket around Christmas Eve at a Maverik gas station in Thayne, which is in the western part of the state. The two women live in the Star Valley area.

Gale’s husband is the one who alerted the duo to the fact that they might have won.

“He called me and said that someone who bought at ticket at the Maverik had won,” she said. “But I told him I thought I’d bought our tickets in Evanston this time around.”

She hung up, believing that was the end of the discussion. But there was a nagging thought in the back of her mind.

“Maybe I should check it,” she thought.

Good thing she did. She’d won the jackpot, in total just over $811,000.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that the women were the winners. Although Gale technically bought the ticket, the two regular lottery players had always agreed that if one of them ever won, they would split it with the other.

Gale kept her promise, meaning that the two will each have around $400,000 to ring in the new year with.

The two friends made the long journey to Cheyenne, more than eight hours, on Thursday to meet with the WyoLotto staff, speak with the media and, of course, get their check.

“It’s a big win; this is exciting,” WyoLotto CEO Jon Clontz said at a news conference Friday morning. “We’re always happy when someone wins, especially when it’s someone in Wyoming. We love giving money away; it’s the favorite part of our jobs.”

Gale and Judy (joined by Gale’s chihuahua, Izzy) told reporters Friday that they still weren’t sure what they would spend the money on.

“We’re still in a little bit of shock – hasn’t quite hit us yet,” Judy said.

Most lottery winners choose to remain anonymous when claiming their winnings, but Clontz was grateful to Judy and Gale for being willing to come forward.

The friends said they wanted to come forward because they wanted to show that anyone could win the lottery, even two women from a small town in Wyoming.

“I want people to know there are actually winners,” Gale said. “We’ve bought tickets for many years and never won anything.”

When asked what their lucky number is, the two women smiled and said that it would be 24 from now on, as they’re the 24th winner(s) of Cowboy Draw.

Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at elfylucille@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.

Ellen Fike is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at efike@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter @EllenLFike

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