Forget Zhu Zhu Pets and Snuggies. A Hartford grandmother received the kind of early Christmas present everyone wants. 

A $250,000 jackpot. 

On Tuesday morning, Alyce Hart walked into Tilton’s Market in Buckfield
looking for a $10 Christmas-themed scratch ticket. She ended up buying
a $20 Holiday Riches ticket instead. It was one of the lottery’s most
expensive games and only one grand prize was left, for the whole state.

“I handed it to her and said, ‘Well, good luck. Maybe it’s your lucky day,'” Everett Tilton said.

Turned out, it was.

In the parking lot of nearby Wells Wood Turning and Finishing, Hart,
56, sat in her car and scratched off the ticket before work. The goal:
match a set of numbers to win the prize shown. Hart was down to her
last three pairs of numbers when she won enough to recoup the cost of
the ticket.

“I figured at least I made my money back,” she said.

Then, she matched to win the $250,000 grand prize. 

In her head, Hart screamed.

Out loud she hollered to her co-worker to get in the car. They were going back to Tilton’s Market. 

Hart returned to the market about 15 minutes after buying the ticket.
She told Tilton she’d won, but Hart was a regular customer and they had
kidded each other about lottery wins before.

“I didn’t believe her,” Tilton said. 

Then he ran the ticket through the lottery computer. 

It was a winner. The game’s last grand prize winner. 

“I was excited,” Tilton said. “I’m still excited. I’ve been telling everybody.”

Tilton’s Market last sold a $250,000 ticket several years ago. For
selling Hart her winning ticket, the state will give the store $2,500,
1 percent of the jackpot. But the store’s owners and associates were happier for Hart than for the store’s good fortune. 

“It’s well-deserved,” said Steven Tilton, co-owner of the market. 

After getting her win confirmed, Hart dashed back to work. She told
her co-workers about the jackpot, showed them the ticket. But like
Everett Tilton, they didn’t believe her at first. She called her
husband. His co-workers didn’t quite believe her, either.

“I wouldn’t play a joke like that,” she said. “Well, I would. But, no.”

Her husband was stunned, but he agreed to come home from his job at
a local paper mill. Hart took the day off from work. Together they
picked up their four grandchildren from school — in a limousine.

Just hours after she scratched off the ticket, Hart and her family
arrived at the Maine State Lottery’s Augusta headquarters to claim her
$250,000.

“We’ve had folks come up before who
have shown up in a limo, but it’s not every day,” said Michael Boardman, the lottery’s marketing manager. “So it makes it a
little more exciting.”

Hart’s win seemed to be fate. Holiday Riches debuted last year and
would have been retired, but the tickets didn’t sell out and some
top prizes remained, so the lottery brought it back. And normally Hart
wouldn’t spend $20 on a scratch ticket. Her limit is more like $2 or
$3. 

At lottery headquarters Hart received two checks — one large, novelty
check for $250,000 and a real check for $175,000, her prize after
taxes. A day after the win, she felt awkward about the money.

“I feel a little guilty winning it,” she said. “Everybody’s having a tough time, you know?” 

On Wednesday, Hart returned to work at the wood mill, where she gave
her co-workers $50 each.  She also promised her grandchildren that if
they weren’t happy with their Christmas presents, she’d buy them each
one thing they wanted. Within reason.

Most of the rest of the money will be dedicated to one thing: her husband’s retirement in June.

“He’d wanted to (retire) and we’ve been trying to figure out a way for him to do it,” she said. “This’ll help him do it.”

Hart did splurge a little. On Wednesday she stopped at Tilton’s again and bought another $20 scratch ticket.

And won, again.

This time, however, her prize was $25.

That money, too, went to her co-workers — in the form of 25 $1 scratch tickets.  

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