ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis man has won Fourth of July’s $70 million jackpot prize after trying for 23 years.

62-year-old Tom Rea has been playing the same Powerball numbers for over two decades. The numbers have a special significance to Rea as they are a combination of family birthdays.

“I’ve been playing those numbers every Wednesday and every Saturday for 23 years, ” Rea shared.

Accompanied by his wife Cathy, Tom claimed his prize at the Missouri Lottery headquarters in Jefferson City on July 24.

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Rea didn’t know he had won the big prize when he took his ticket to be scanned at the Gas Mart on Hampton Ave. in St. Louis.

“I put it in there, and it said, ‘You won $70 million,'” he said. “So I wiped the ticket under my arm and tried it again. It said the same thing, so I asked the girl who was working there to check it for me. I told her I wanted to make sure my eyes weren’t seeing things.”

The store clerk ran the ticket with the same results.

“She said, ‘Oh, my God, mister. You won!'” Rea shared. “Then the manager came out and hugged me and shook my hand, and the girl was crying because she’d never sold such a big ticket.”

Once he learned of his big win, Rea shared the news with his wife. The two sought legal and financial counsel before claiming the funds.

So what does winning a Powerball jackpot feel like?

“It allows for early retirement,” Rea said.

“Relief. It opens all new avenues,” Cathy added.

Despite winning the ultimate prize, Rea hasn’t stopped playing his lucky numbers.