EAGLESWOOD TOWNSHIP — Ed and Susan Nickel say they're still in shock that they're now millionaires after winning the Powerball jackpot on Wednesday night with a ticket bought at the Acme in Little Egg Harbor Township.
The couple was celebrating their winnings with family Friday night at their Dock Road home, which was flooded with 7 feet of water when Hurricane Sandy hit. After the storm, they found happiness in their dog Molly, a 10-month-old chocolate Labrador Retriever they purchased after the hurricane. They call Molly their Sandy relief dog.
The inside of their home — which was purchased in 1999 and backs up to a lagoon— has been gutted since the storm, and the Nickels have been enjoying their summer in their journey back to normalcy.
"I said that this year we wouldn't plant a garden after it was destroyed because we just couldn't afford to do it. That's what I love to do and now I can," Susan Nickel said.
Susan, 63, was one of 16 employees at the Ocean County Vehicle Maintenance Department who went in on buying Powerball tickets. They had one of three winning tickets in Wednesday’s drawingt, with the others purchased in Middlesex County and Minnesota.
If taken in a lump sum, each of the three winning tickets is worth $86 million before taxes, or $58.3 million after taxes. They are worth $149.4 million over 30 years if the winners choose the annuity option.
"I don't know what we're going to do yet. I know we have had family here for the last day so we haven't been able to talk. We'll do that tomorrow," she said.
One thing is certain she said she plans to finish the year working for the county because she's been there for 23 years and can't just walk out on them.
She said winning the Powerball means her husband, a plumbing inspector who is 66, can now retire.
"I quit high school when I was 16 to work with my Dad. I've always worked. Now I can retire," he said.
The Nickels have been married for 45 years, have two children and three grandchildren. Their son, also named Ed, is coming home from Virginia, where he serves in the Air Force, to celebrate with the family.
The couple sat with family Friday in their back yard that almost one year ago was flooded and pieces of their life thrown about.
"I don't know what we're going to do yet. We're going to be the same people, just doing a lot of partying," said Ed Nickel as he puffed on a cigar.
"We got our happy ending. We have our family, our health and we won the lottery!" Susan Nickel shouted and threw her arms in the air.
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