Except for getting more sleep after retiring eight days from now from his job of 12 years at General Dynamics in Marion , Bob Bytnar says nothing about his life changes after winning $4 million in the Illinois Lottery's Gold Bullion scratch-off game last week.
He says his Ford Ranger with 300,000 miles is just fine and he plans to finish clearing off the lot next to his house on South Chestnut Street in Du Quoin. "I don't know why Ford stopped making that truck. It's the best truck they ever made." He's owned several of them over the years.
These are the words of a man who served a six-year tour as a Marine in the "Rice War" in Vietnam between 1964 and 1970, went on to complete his engineering degree in 3 1/2 years at the Missouri School of Mines at Rolla and worked for 17 years as the engineering manager at Phelps Dodge cable and wire plant in Du Quoin until it was sold to Cablec.
He left Du Quoin, lived in Paragould, Ark. and the Missouri Bootheel and fulfilled a promise to wife of 38 years Gayle that in moving back to Du Quoin in 2000 he would open an ice cream shop. The shop was opened in 2008. "In Paragould our shop was called "Ye Olde Country Store and Sweet Shop" because we sold bulk candy along with ice cream and fudge.
Gayle made the best homemade fudge on earth and last year the "Ye Olde Country Store" in Du Quoin shipped it to 19 states for the holidays.
Gayle died on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 25, 2010 after a four-year bout with cancer.
Bytnar's life has been filled with caring and he is very humble about that life well-lived.
"I am not lucky. I am blessed," he said of the $100,000 he won in the Illinois Lottery in 2009, most of which went to pay his wife's medical bills at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.
"You would think I would be jumping up and down," he said of matching the number 4 in the top row with the number 4 in a row below it that said "$4 million dollars."
He's the same man.
But, for once in his life his sleep habits will change. Since the Du Quoin ice cream shop opened in 2008 next to the Grand Theater in downtown Du Quoin his daily routine included helping daughter Bobbi Bytnar Smith by day, going into his job from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. at General Dynamics and catching two or three hours of sleep "when I can."
"This will enable me to sleep at night," said Bytnar, 66.
"I plan to take care of my three daughters and my five grandchildren," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Bobbi was married July 7, 2012 in a ceremony at the ice cream shop and both would have given their all for her mother to see it.
He is equally proud of daughter April Mitchell of Carbondale. She and her husband are connected with Universal Glass Co. of Carbondale.
Daughter Lynna Alderson and her husband are EMTs in West Memphis, Ark.
Bytnar says he has bought lottery tickets "off and on" for several years.
He says he has always believed that, "If you don't play, you can't win."
"I started buying Little Lotto tickets two or three times a week," he said.
The Illinois Lottery's Gold Bullion game is a pricey scratch-off game at $20 apiece from a machine at the Du Quoin Farm Fresh Store. Bytnar showed us a copy of his winning card. You have a row of numbers in the top row, then drop down to see if it matches any numbers below.
Bytnar purchased the ticket a week ago Tuesday and knew immediately that he had a $4 million winner, the biggest prize offered by the game.
"The lottery has already verified it," he said. A check presentation is planned for 10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 16."
"The manager and workers there at Farm Fresh are the finest people in Du Quoin," he said.
The Chester Dairy, which owns Farm Fresh, will get a $40,000 commission. "I wish the employees there could get it," he said.
"I'm retired, now," Bytnar beamed. "I've worked six days a week over in Marion for 12 years," he said.
He has a strong faith and believes in the work at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Du Quoin and the Christian Fellowship School.
In fact, he will be honored by the Belleville Diocese at an upcoming dinner at the St. Nicholas Cathedral in O'Fallon for being a winner in the "Businesses Promoting Faith" competition held by the church. Ye Olde Country Store in downtown Du Quoin got several nominations and was named in the diocese newspaper, The Messenger.
"I don't want for anything. I'm happy. I'm going to run the ice cream shop," he said, but there will probably be some more flavors, some bulk candy and maybe even a Ford Ranger with fewer miles on it in his future.