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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane couple wins $1 million from Publishers Clearing House

UPDATED: Sat., May 1, 2021

Howie Guja, left, and Danielle Lam, of the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol, take a picture Friday after awarding a $1 million prize to William McGunagle and his wife, Kat, both of Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Howie Guja, left, and Danielle Lam, of the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol, take a picture Friday after awarding a $1 million prize to William McGunagle and his wife, Kat, both of Spokane. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

William McGunagle answered the phone singing “hello” Friday afternoon.

“How I’m doing is how you would expect somebody who just won a million dollars to be,” 65-year-old McGunagle said with a laugh.

For the past three years, he’s been battling throat and lung cancer while facing the mounting copayments that come with each scan and radiation treatment. With his most recent scan coming up clean, he said the first thing he did with his prize money from Publishers Clearing House was send some to his two adult daughters. Next up, he’s going to get a paint job and convertible top for his 1994 Mustang.

McGunagle’s prize will come in $25,000 annual installments for the next 29 years, and the remaining $275,000 is set to be paid out in the 30th year.

“I’m 65 years old; it sounds like they’re challenging me to live to 95,” McGunagle said.

McGunagle has been entering the contest annually for 20 years. When the “prize patrol” Danielle Lam and Howie Guja walked up to McGunagle’s house with a giant check for a million dollars, he wasn’t home.

They knocked, rang the doorbell and a small dog appeared, followed by a German shepherd, still without sign of a human resident.

Lam and Guja trotted across the street, where Jerry Francis learned his neighbor McGunagle would become a millionaire in a few short hours.

Francis called the McGunagles, who were unaware of their new wealth while on a Costco run during the rare morning they didn’t have any kids at their home preschool center.

“He just said, you need to come home and you’re going to be pleased,” McGunagle said.

Then when McGunagle arrived home, the prize patrol had set up around the block. He was unloading groceries when balloons, people and the check appeared at his address.

Even if they’d won $1 million all in one chunk, McGunagle said he wouldn’t be the type to make big, flashy purchases.

Kat’s Early Learning ECEAP, named for William’s wife and co-owner Katherine McGunagle, caters to low-income families, and $25,000 a year won’t be speeding up retirement for the couple.

“We get to help children and families with low income. We wouldn’t trade it in for anything,” he said.

Reporter Emma Epperly contributed to this report.

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