02/15/2013 07:52 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Dave And Nancy Honeywell, Virginia Couple, Win $217 Million Powerball Jackpot

Dave Honeywell spent $10 and let the computer choose his numbers as he picked up a lottery ticket before flying out of Richmond International Airport on a business trip.

Honeywell, of Fredericksburg, was drawn to the vending machine in the airport's atrium on Super Bowl Sunday after he noticed the Powerball jackpot was soaring.

A few days later, when he came back through the airport, he passed a banner above the machine boasting that a $217 million winner had been sold there and smiled.

He wanted to stop and take a picture, but there were too many people around, so he just kept walking.

The 53-year-old computer scientist came forward Thursday afternoon to claim the second-largest jackpot ever won in Virginia. Honeywell took the one-time cash option, which comes out to $136.4 million before taxes.

He and his wife, Nancy, both work for the Department of Defense and had been worried about the impact of potential defense cuts.

"All our fears are gone now," Honeywell said Thursday as he stood in front of a throng of cameras and onlookers near the airport machine that gave up the golden ticket. "So we feel much better."

The Honeywells, who will soon celebrate their 20 th anniversary, were greeted by thunderous applause as they walked through the airport to accept a jumbo check. They were accompanied by one of their two daughters, Christine, and two grandsons, Shawn and Ethan.

Paula Otto, the executive director of the Virginia Lottery, described her reaction when she heard the winning ticket had been sold at the airport.

"We all said, it could be anyone in the world," Otto said. "As it turns out, it was a Virginia family."

The morning after the Feb. 6 drawing, Honeywell checked the winning numbers from Denver, reading them on his iPod right before a business meeting.

At first, he thought he won $2 for getting the Powerball correct. Then he read all six numbers left to right.

"Pretty soon my hands were shaking," Honeywell said. "I could barely read the ticket anymore."

He couldn't come home immediately, because he had to lead the meeting. He worked the whole day, but he kept touching his front pocket to make sure the ticket was still there.

Honeywell plans to keep working for a few more months until he's finished his current project. Nancy plans to stay for two weeks.

"It's nice to be able to finally retire," she said.

The couple also plan to retire their aging Dodge Neon, which has racked up 170,000 miles after being used to get the Honeywells to and from work at Maryland's Fort Meade, an 81-mile commute one way.

"Our very first purchase will be a car for me," Honeywell said, adding that he might not be the only one getting a new car.

Ethan, the Honeywells' 7-year-old grandson, will celebrate a birthday tomorrow.

"Maybe a Maserati or something," Honeywell joked in response to a question about what Ethan will be getting for his birthday.

The Honeywells also plan to find a nice place to retire out west, travel and give some of their winnings to charity, perhaps Habitat for Humanity.

As reporters swarmed his grandparents, Shawn, 10, described how he felt when he heard the news.

"Awesomeness," he said.

The biggest jackpot won with a ticket purchased in Virginia went to J.R. and Peggy Triplett, of Winchester, who won $239 million in a 2004 Mega Millions drawing.


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