Win $19 Million … Retire … Move Away

JOHNSTOWN - The life of Leon Peck changed dramatically March 25 when he won a $19 million share of a $319 million Mega Millions jackpot in the state lottery. Now, he just wants to spend the rest of that life elsewhere.

Peck and his wife, Colleen, and some of their friends were taking boxes out of their Whitmore Avenue home last week. The couple is selling the home and has already purchased a home elsewhere, but he declined to identify the town.

"The biggest change is I was going to have to retire at 66 1/2," he said. "I’m 62 now … I’m retired."

After hitting the lottery, Peck quit his job with the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal in Albany, where he was a computer systems and network manager. He said he also went “underground” for a month after learning of his newfound fortune.

"I have had every weird call," he said. "Mostly it’s someone who wants us to finance money for their business or pay off a loan or pay off their medical school."

He said one particularly persistent minister from Boston keeps showing up on his doorstep, asking him to part with some of his winnings in the name of the Lord.

"It’s not the local people; they’ve been wonderful respecting our privacy," he said. "That’s why I want to go to a place where I’m not known."

Peck was all smiles -along with six of his state co-workers -when they greeted the press March 31 at state lottery headquarters in Schenectady to let the world know they won the Mega Millions jackpot.

Now people are living out their fantasies through the Pecks, wondering what they would do with $19 million. But Peck has been fairly conservative, so far.

He had to pay 25 percent federal taxes and 10 percent state taxes, but when the smoke cleared he had about $19 million. The Army veteran said he and his wife have planned to give a piece of their winnings to some “charities,” which he won’t disclose.

Other than purchasing a new home out of the area, the couple bought three new cars. One of the cars is for themselves, purchased at Main Chrysler, Dodge & Jeep in Johnstown. The Pecks purchased the other new cars for their only child, Christian, and his wife.

"We made some long-term investments for future generations in my family," Peck said.

Peck is a former city Water Board president and Republican candidate for councilman-at-large.

He and six others - John Hilton, 57, of North Greenbush; Gabrielle Mahar, 29, of Colonie; John Kutey, 54, of Green Island; Tracy Sussman, 41, of Colonie; Mike Barth, 63, of Bethlehem; and Kristin Baldwin, 42, of Clifton Park - two months ago plunked down $2 per person to play Mega Millions.

Barth purchased the lucky ticket on March 23 at Coulson’s News Center on Broadway in Albany. He said the group had been playing for big jackpots for years.

Peck said he “will certainly” miss Johnstown -where he was born and lived most of his adult life - and several family and friends.

[Original post in The Leader-Herald]


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