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Wadena resident wins $1 million lottery prize

WADENA — Mike Snyder doesn’t know what prompted him to buy two lottery tickets on that day in November.

But he has a million reasons to be glad he did.

Snyder, 67, stood with his wife Lea, both wearing black sweatshirts with the word “winner” stitched on the front, at the Jefferson Street Holiday Station Tuesday as Minnesota Lottery officials presented them with a large check for $1 million.

As friends and family gathered for the presentation at the Holiday Station Store, Lea Snyder asked one how she was doing. The friend’s reply — “not as good as you” — generated laughs from the gathering.

This is the fourth year Snyder purchased a Minnesota Millionaire Raffle game ticket. He typically buys one. But on Nov. 18, he decided to get two and spent $20. The second ticket was the winner.

Friend Larry Kreklau, Wadena, regularly meets with Snyder for coffee. Snyder was at Kreklau’s home earlier Tuesday morning to fix a fuse.

“He’s as good a guy as you can hope for,” Kreklau said. “He’s down to earth. ... It couldn’t happen to two nicer people.”

Lea and Mike Snyder said they weren’t sure they realized their good fortune yet and never imagined this would happen. Mike Snyder played the Millionaire Raffle, the only game he does play, because he said it offered the best odds, but hoped for a win of $5,000 or maybe $25,000.

“We are excited but you don’t think this will ever happen,” Lea Snyder said.

Mike Snyder said he was asleep too early to see the numbers drawn for the raffle on New Year’s Day. But up early the next day, he saw the winning numbers displayed on the TV. They looked familiar and he was pretty sure he had a winner. He put his DVR on pause. He checked the numbers against the ticket. He went to wake his wife.

“He got me out of bed at 6 a.m. in morning to show me the numbers,” Lea Snyder said. “It’s a very humbling feeling.”

Mike Snyder said he told his wife ‘you need to wake me up or tell me I’m reading this wrong.’”

He wasn’t.

The win came just days before his birthday. The Snyders said this windfall will help make their retirement easier and financially secure.

“We’re not going to go out and blow it,” Mike Snyder said. “We might buy one toy.”

That toy may come with eight wheels and the money will help fund those annual trips to see the Twins in spring training, courtesy of Sun Country.

Jenny Canfield, Minnesota State Lottery acting executive director, said the Snyders were notably calm when they claimed the prize at the lottery office.

“If you want somebody to keep a secret tell Mike and Lea Snyder,” Canfield said.

Self-described as quiet and conservative people, Lea Snyder said they are still getting over the shock of the win.

After they confirmed the numbers, the ticket sat on Mike Snyder’s desk and they kept the secret until Jan. 6 when they went to Rosemount to authenticate the ticket at the lottery office.

“You want to talk, yet you still don’t believe it,” Lea Snyder said.

“I didn’t believe it until they put the money in my bank account,” Mike Snyder joked.

When they did tell family and friends of their good luck, they found people had a hard time believing them. The couple has three children, a son and two daughters, and seven grandchildren. They stopped to see son Mike on their way back from claiming the prize.

Mike said his dad and stepmother kept the secret all through dinner and then when they said they’d won a $1 million, he thought they were joking. Even when they showed him a rather blurry photo taken at the lottery office, he said: “where did you get that made?”

Then Mike and his wife Karen realized it wasn’t a spoof but was true.

“They are just kind people,” Mike said of his dad and stepmother.

They didn’t expect the win to change anything about the parents. Karen said it’s the first time she’s known anybody who actually won the lottery.

Lea and Mike Snyder are originally from Iowa. He’s from Spencer. She’s from Riceville. She teaches piano and works at Tri-County Health Care birth unit. She said she loves her work and plans to continue to work a few more years. Mike Snyder worked for Sears and later owned his own business Mike’s Appliance Repair, before retiring about a year-and-a-half ago. He said initial plans are to donate to the tornado recovery fund and their church and then feel more secure in their retirement.

The Holiday Station received a $5,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket with Steve Schmitz, general manager, accepting the oversized check on the store’s behalf.

The other $1 million prize from the Jan. 1 drawing was sold in Steele County and has not yet been claimed. The Minnesota Millionaire Raffle players have until Jan. 2, 2013, to claim the prizes. And Canfield said there are still three $100,000 Raffle prizes unclaimed with two purchased in Hennepin County and one in Mille Lacs County.

Since 1990, the lottery raised more than $2 billion for state programs with the general fund receiving more than $1.2 billion to fund areas such as education, public safety and health and human services. More than $800 million has gone to fund critical environmental programs, the state reported.

Kreklau picked up a Millionaire Raffle ticket while he was at the Holiday Station store. He said: “I was hoping the luck would rub off.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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