Donald Savastano: Wins $1 Million, Dies 3 Weeks Later

Suddenly coming into a significant amount of money is one of the things in life that will make you start seriously planning for your future. However, while most lottery winners can look forward to years of spending their winnings, Donald Savastano wasn’t so lucky. Though Savastano was determined to spend wisely and invest in his future, unlike many winners who blow through their winnings with reckless spending, the lucky winner never even had a chance to enjoy his good fortune.

Who Is Donald Savastano?

Donald Savastano lived in the small town of Sidney, New York, just 170 miles away from New York City. At 52 years old, Savastano was self-employed and working as a carpenter. He was born in Queens but grew up on Long Island, and had learned his trade by working with his father when he was younger. Friends, family, and customers knew him as a perfectionist who always did high-quality work. He made it a point to teach others as his father had taught him, always showing people the right way to do things. 

In 2018, Savastano made headlines in New York for winning big on a lottery scratch ticket. Unfortunately, he made international headlines again just a few weeks later when he passed away. 

The Big Win

$1 Million Winner Donald Savastano with Convenience Story Clerk and Lottery RepDonald Savastano started 2018 with a bang. He walked into a convenience store in Masonville, New York, and purchased a “Merry Millionaire” lottery ticket. When he checked the ticket moments later, his surprised exclamation caught the attention of the cashier, Danielle Scott, who had just sold it to him. 

Caught by the sound, Scott asked if he had just won a bit of money. She was excited to learn that he hadn’t just won a bit of money-he had actually won the $1 million jackpot! Right away, Savastano started telling Scott about how he planned to spend the money. He wanted to pay off some debt, get a new truck, and then finally take some time off work and go on vacation. The rest, he later told local media, he would use to invest in the future. Unfortunately, Donald didn’t realize at the time that his future would be cut extremely short.

How Did Donald Savastano Die?

As a self-employed contractor, Savastano didn’t have health insurance. According to friends, he had been feeling unwell for a while but couldn’t afford to see the doctor, so, after winning, that’s one of the first things he did. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t good-Savastano learned that he had stage 4 cancer.

One of Savastano’s friends returned to the convenience store that had changed Donald’s life to tell Scott the sad news: the recent millionaire had been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer and would be undergoing an aggressive form of chemotherapy treatment. Scott later told the media that she was hoping that the money would help save his life. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. 

Donald Savastano passed away on January 26, 2018, just three weeks after winning $1 million from the New York Lottery. He is survived by his mother, four brothers, two sisters, and his girlfriend of 12 years, Julie Wheeler, as well as her two sons. 


While there are many tragic stories about lottery winners, Donald Savastano’s is definitely one of the sadder ones. Many lottery winners’ lives take a turn after receiving their prizes because they make terrible decisions or get involved with the wrong kind of people, so it is particularly heart-breaking to hear about a kind and level-headed winner whose life took a turn for the worst through no fault of his own. Though, he wasn’t able to enjoy his fortune, we can only hope that the prize helped Savastano leave behind an unforgettable legacy. - Everything You Need to Know to Buy Lottery Tickets Online

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