Customers' lament: Mega Millions winner shoulda been New Yawker

Middle Island, NY: Daniel Bruckner, 35, with his

Middle Island, NY: Daniel Bruckner, 35, with his wife Christine, of California, claims his $208,000,000 Mega Millions jackpot at King Kullen in Middle Island. (January 13, 2012) (Credit: James Carbone)

The buzz generated by the introduction of Long Island's largest lottery jackpot winner had subsided. By late morning on Friday, the King Kullen supermarket in Middle Island was regaining a measure of normalcy.

A spill was reported over the store's intercom. A sign at the courtesy desk corrected an error in an advertisement, so the tomato puree in blue cans were not, in fact, on sale.

Still, in the checkout line, customers could not get over news a California native in the finance business had cashed in a $208-million Mega Millions jackpot.

"It should have been a New Yorker," said Nancy Coleman of Coram, as she paid for groceries. "Financial analysts do pretty well, don't they?"

Stuart McCallum of Ridge agreed: "You kind of hope it was someone local, who needs the money."

In some ways, a local did win: The pregnant wife of Daniel Bruckner, 35, the San Jose man introduced as the jackpot winner, is Christine Bruckner, 36, who used to live in Ridge.

Customer Tony DiBenedetto, 71, of Ridge, pointed out that many of the major national jackpots have gone to people in other states. Finally there's a winner on Long Island -- and it's a Californian.

"It would have been nice if it was someone from around here," he said.

Before Bruckner's introduction at the store where the winning ticket for the Dec. 27 drawing was sold, a story had circulated that a group of teachers had won.

That's why Theresa Vanderman, 50, a secretary at the Ridge Elementary School, said she had checked to see if any teachers had called in sick on Friday. None had.

Diane Henriksen, 40, who runs the computer and science lab at the school, said a group of 20 school workers pooled their money to buy tickets for the Mega jackpot. They didn't win but she said she wouldn't feel bad if other teachers had won.

If the winnings were shared by a group of teachers, she said, they'd probably retire and then area teachers who had been laid off recently could find work.

After learning a financial analyst had won, Henriksen said it was all right. "They seemed like nice people," she said.

Lisa Korpi, a store bookkeeper who works at the counter where lottery tickets are sold, had said she hoped a regular customer was the winner.

On Friday, she said she was glad for anybody. "It's been exciting," Korpi said of the last few weeks. "Everybody's been asking everybody if we knew [the winner] yet."

At the nearby Mid-Island Diner, co-owner Frank Vitorou was amazed a couple from California had won the jackpot, having bought the winning ticket at a Long Island supermarket.

"If it's meant to be, it's meant to be," he said. "Tell them to spend the money around here."

With Sophia Chang and Gary Dymski

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