‘I already have everything I need’: Winner of Nova Scotia’s $1.7 million Chase the Ace still shops at Walmart

has been shopping at the Walmart in North Sydney, N.S., for as long as she can remember, but lately things there have been different. Not the stuff on the shelves but the other shoppers, at least some of them, who occasionally look at MacAskill with a look in their eyes that in her mind says: Is that , and if it really is then why is she still shopping here when she could be shopping anywhere, including the finest boutiques in Paris?

Darren Pittman / The Canadian PressDarren Pittman / The Canadian PressDonelda MacAskill, 62, celebrates after winning more than $1.7 million in Inverness, on Saturday Oct. 4, 2015. Months later, the money hasn't changed her. She drives the same car and still shops at Walmart.

MacAskill’s look in response to these looks is one of bewilderment. She is who she is and she means what she says. And what she said on Oct. 3, 2015 — for those who were listening — was that she wasn’t going to let the “money change her.”

But we are talking about a lot of money, to be precise, $1,777,256.76. It’s a big, fat, lump sum that consumed the imaginations and financial aspirations of many Nova Scotians, and Canadians beyond, late last summer and into the fall as the jackpot for a “” fundraiser in tiny Inverness, N.S., grew. Eventually the money was won by the plain-spoken, penny-wise 61-year-old grandmother of four from Englishtown, Cape Breton Island.

“I really don’t care what the Joneses have, and I never have and I never will,” MacAskill says from her home on a recent Sunday afternoon. “I’ve been asked about a new car — if I ordered a fancy new car after I won — and I didn’t, because I don’t believe in fancy new cars.

“I drive a 2009 Hyundai. It is used and it is black and I love it, and if I had a fancy Mercedes then I’d have to worry about it getting scratched.”

Handout Handout John MacAskill, husband of Chase the Ace champ, Donelda MacAskill, pictured with his granddaughter and his new (albeit used) tractor. When Donelda drew the ace in Inverness and pocketed $1.7-million she was asked what she was going to do with the loot. Answer: get a tractor, to plow out the driveway when the snow flies.

MacAskill is Cape Breton’s unforeseen millionaire. But what can be seen in her life and her philosophy toward sudden wealth is an example other would-be millionaires should note. To be truly content, materially, MacAskill has, thus far, purchased two things. Both were for her lobster-fishing husband John. The first was a second-hand tractor capable of hefting his lobster pallets and ploughing the driveway in winter. It cost $40,000. The second was a new engine for his used boat. It cost about $60,000, and was purchased because John wants to go out in a “blaze of glory.”

It isn’t that I haven’t thought about what I could buy, because I have looked at jewelry and furniture, but I haven’t come up with anything

“People keep asking me what I have bought for myself, and I haven’t bought anything,” MacAskill says. “It isn’t that I haven’t thought about what I could buy, because I have looked at jewelry and furniture, but I haven’t come up with anything.

“What this tells me is that there is nothing in my life I want because I already have everything I need.”

But, there must be something, some plan afoot, some bauble or bucket list with Donelda MacAskill’s name on it, somewhere?

There isn’t. What there is, however, is a plan to divide the money, which is in the bank, among her three sons. Two fish with their dad while the eldest, an astrophysicist with NASA, is moving to Halifax from California with his wife and son this spring. MacAskill also wants to keep some cash in reserve, in case she and John need to renovate their home to stay in it as they age.

Darren Pittman / The Canadian PressDarren Pittman / The Canadian PressDonelda MacAskill hugs volunteers after flipping over an ace of spades worth $1.7 million in a charity game of Chase the Ace.

Health is a concern. John had a brush with cancer right around the time Donelda drew the ace in Inverness. He is recovering now from surgery, and hopes to be back on his tractor before the snow is gone while Donelda hopes to be back on her boat, the Highland Lass, come May. Several reports incorrectly described her as a “retiree” after she won. But she is a “puffin” tour boat operator, and has been for 21 years. Pulling away from the Englishtown wharf transports her to a “magical place.”

“I love doing the tours, and so why would I stop?”

By her guess, every financial adviser in Nova Scotia has called her since Oct. 3, and she still gets calls once a week. MacAskill wants to donate a chunk of money to charity, but hasn’t decided which one yet.

“It feels smothering, getting asked what I am going to do with the money,” she says, adding: “But a fool and his money soon part, and I don’t class myself a fool, so I don’t intend to part with the money too soon.”

RelatedThe moment a lucky Nova Scotia woman won $1.7 million, and an epic game of Chase the Ace finally ended

But MacAskill does intend to continue gambling. Chase the Ace began anew in November at the Legion hall in Inverness, with a fresh deck of cards and a growing pot of cash. The “millionaire” from Englishtown was invited onstage Dec. 12 to draw the winning ticket for the week. Returning to her seat, she fumbled for her glasses.

“Lo and behold, I had the winning ticket,” MacAskill says, laughing. “I didn’t get the ace and it wasn’t a big amount of money — it was $377 — and I donated it to the food bank.

“But what are the odds? The funny part is, I was never a lucky person before all this.”

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