After weeks of suspense, lottery officials on Friday presented the winner at a news conference in the King Kullen supermarket. Bruckner and his pregnant wife, Christine, 36, a native Long Islander, stood with million-dollar smiles on a podium set up between the bread aisle and the bakery counter.
"It's very surreal," Bruckner said.
He recounted how he dropped by the King Kullen to buy groceries for dinner, saw the size of the Dec. 27 drawing, and on an impulse spent the $26 he had left in his wallet on tickets.
Christine said her father heard the next morning that the winning ticket had been bought at the King Kullen store. She woke her husband and told him to check the numbers, partly to humor her dad.
Daniel Bruckner complied. He checked the lottery's website. Her called the lottery's phone number. The numbers he saw and heard -- 23, 32, 33, 39, 43 and a Mega Ball of 8 -- were a match for his Quick Pick ticket.
"It didn't seem real. I just didn't believe it," he said. The moments after he learned he'd won are "fuzzy," he said.
Bruckner said they would take a lump-sum payment, which will leave him an after-tax windfall of $101 million, lottery officials said.
The Bruckners didn't have a lot to say about their lives, choosing to keep many details private. They said they have not decided what to do with their money other than to pay off college loans and bills. And they said they planned to give some to charity.
Bruckner said he was born and raised in California and met his wife through mutual friends. He said he plays the Mega game from time to time in California but had never won more "than a few bucks."
Christine, who grew up in Ridge, said she worked in the mortgage industry but is unemployed.
Their lives would change, Bruckner acknowledged, but he plans to go back to work next week. "It's part of trying to maintain some normalcy," he said.
Mark Smith, executive vice president of Infoblox Inc., a Santa Clara-based software developer, said Daniel Bruckner works as a sales operations manager for the company. He described him as quiet, conscientious and a fantasy football fan who occasionally brings his toddler son to the office.
The only things he says he's heard that are on Bruckner's shopping list so far are Oakland Raiders tickets.
"It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," said Smith, 55, who grew up in Merrick. But he joked he told Bruckner not to be late for work on Tuesday, or he'd fire him.
The announcement ended weeks of speculation in a quiet Middle Island community about the prospect of a megamillionaire in their midst.
For much of the time while Long Island wondered, the winners were home in California, consulting attorneys and accountants, "to do it the right way," Bruckner said. His wallet with the ticket fell out of his pocket on the plane to California, he said.
At the Mid-Island Diner near the supermarket, co-owner Frank Vitorou was amazed a couple from California had won the jackpot.
"There's a lot of people around here who need the money." He said, "Tell them to spend the money around here."
With Patricia Kitchen, Sophia Chang and Gary Dymski