Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Couple wins Manitoba's biggest jackpot

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SAGKEENG FIRST NATION -- By the time the limousine swooped into the reserve to whisk Kirby and Marie Fontaine off to Winnipeg Saturday night, everyone in the area already knew the extraordinary news.

They are the winners of the $50-million Lotto Max prize, one of the biggest jackpots in Canadian lottery history.

It's the biggest lottery win ever in Manitoba.

"In a small town like this, you don't hear stuff like that very often," said Michel Bruneau, a cashier at the convenience store in the Broadlands strip mall in Pine Falls, just outside the Sagkeeng First Nation. "I'm so happy for them."

Marie Fontaine, who works in the personal care home in Pine Falls, bought the winning ticket from the convenience store just outside Sagkeeng on Friday, and called Bruneau for the winning numbers shortly after the draw.

"By the time I told her the last number, she knew it," said Bruneau. "She was just like, 'Oh, my God!' "

With her family in tow, Fontaine came right down to the store to check the ticket electronically, and then cashier Dale Swampy validated it again on his computer behind the counter.

"Her face just lit up," said Swampy.

The win was the talk of the town Sunday. Nearly everyone either knows the Fontaines, played baseball with them or were relatives. The win was a bit of serendipity for an area in the grips of a nasty labour dispute with Pine Falls' major employer.

The eastern boundary of Sagkeeng and Pine Falls are a few minutes' drive apart along Highway 11, about 110 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

"It's done a lot for the town," said Laurie Wilson who, with her husband, Kim Wilson, owns the Broadlands Mall store that sold the winning ticket.

"There's been so much heartache with the Tembec lockout," said Wilson, whose husband is one of 270 paper mill workers who have been locked out for more than two months.

"It's nice to see Pine Falls back on the map but for some awesome news," she said.

On the picket line Sunday, the locked-out workers were preparing for a long winter. As they built a more permanent shelter to weather the winter, news of the lotto win was top of mind.

"Find out if she's single," joked one locked-out worker as he cradled a Tim Hortons coffee. "She could have her pick here."

But just what Marie and Kirby Fontaine will do with all that money, we'll we'll have to wait to find out.

People in Pine Falls and Sagkeeng said the win couldn't happen to a nicer family, or one that deserved a little good news.

The Fontaines live on the reserve in a tidy yellow mobile home surrounded by friendly cats and dogs and lawn ornaments stuffed with silk flowers.

Neighbours and friends say Marie works at the personal care home nearby but Kirby, who used to work security at the South Beach Casino, suffered some health problems over the summer and had been off work. They have two children, a boy and teenaged girl.

"I think it's just awesome," said Terri Papineau, who played baseball in the same league as the Fontaines. "I'm just so amazed for them."

Lotto Max is the new game from the Western Canada Lottery Corp. that replaced the old Super 7 draw. The $5 tickets give people a one-in-28,633,528 chance of winning. It's far more likely you will make two hole-in-one shots during the same round of golf.

An official announcement will be made this morning by the lottery corporation.

Andrea Morantz, spokeswoman for Western Canada Lotteries, said they don't offer rewards to retailers for selling winning tickets, other than giving them some great publicity.

-- With files from Carol Sanders

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2009 A3

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