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Man who won $1M New York Lottery game dies weeks later

Funeral home says Donald Savastano, who grew up on Long Island, recently had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Donald Savastano, pictured here with Yolanda Vega of

Donald Savastano, pictured here with Yolanda Vega of the New York Lottery, won a $1 million New York Lottery scratch-off game. Photo Credit: Spectrum News

After winning $1 million in a December scratch-off game, Donald Savastano, who lived in upstate Sidney but grew up on Long Island, told New York Lottery officials he knew how he’d spend the money.

“Being a self-employed carpenter, I didn’t really have a plan for retirement,” Savastano told the Lottery in an interview at the time. “The money will help with that . . . I’ll buy a new truck, pay off some debt and invest for the future.”

Savastano, 51, didn’t have long to enjoy his newfound wealth.

Recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Savastano “passed away suddenly” on Friday, according to an obituary prepared by the Lester R. Grummons Funeral Home in upstate Oneonta.

A spokesman for the funeral home said Monday the family did not want to comment on Savastano’s death “at this time.”

Savastano had told state lottery officials he was driving home from work Dec. 9 when he stopped at a gas station in Masonville and bought the game.

“I buy scratch-off tickets pretty regularly but I don’t normally play the holiday tickets,” Savastano told Lottery officials. “I saw the Merry Millionaire ticket and figured, ‘Why not?’ ”

Savastano walked out of the store and scratched the ticket has he walked back to his car.

“I couldn’t believe it!” he said. “I brought it back in and scanned it under the ticket checker and knew it was a winner.”

Savastano won on a Saturday but couldn’t claim his prize until the Lottery office opened on Monday.

“I kept it under wraps over the weekend,” he said of his million-dollar scratch-off, “but I did take it out a few times to convince myself it was real.”

The $1 million top prize on the Merry Millionaire ticket is paid out as a one-time lump sum payment. Savastano received a net check totaling $661,800 after required withholdings and told the Lottery he had planned to use some of it for retirement.

Lottery spokesman Brad Maione said Savastano received the check on Jan. 8.

Savastano was the 97th New York Lottery player to claim a prize totaling $1,000,000 or more this year, the Lottery said.

The funeral home obituary said Savastano is survived by his mother, four brothers and two sisters.

The obituary also said Savastano was born in Queens and had grown up on Long Island but information was not immediately available about specifically where on Long Island Savastano had lived. Records showed he was once registered to vote in Smithtown.

The obituary added Savastano learned carpentry from his father as a child and worked for commercial companies before moving to Sidney in Delaware County 10 years ago where he worked for himself.

“He was known for his high-quality work and perfectionism,” the obituary noted. “He always tried to reach out and help those he could by teaching them ‘the right way to do things.’”

Visitation will be Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the funeral home. Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Oneonta Assembly of God Church in Oneonta.

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