JOHNSON CITY - 'Twas the day after St. Paddy's Day, but the luck was still running strong for Robert O'Neill.
The retired postmaster from Brandon, Fla., moved to Johnson City to be near his son, Robert Jr., and his family, and they were invited to dinner at Johnny Carino's, ostensibly to celebrate another promotion for Bob.
Little did he know that his luck was about to take off in a big way.
"I thought it was strange we were eating in the center of the room instead of in back, and I didn't notice the decorations and the big globe on the ceiling, I was so proud of Bob Jr.," O'Neill said.
Then Joan Steffend from HGTV came out of the kitchen with dessert and the news he had won the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway 2007, and they were part of a live television special.
"This lady came out with a sign saying I won $250,000," O'Neill said.
As they say on television, wait, there's more.
O'Neill's name was drawn from among 41 million entrants as the winner of a grand prize package worth $2.5 million. That includes a fully furnished, custom-built Rocky Mountain home with 3,000 square feet of flooring from Lumber Liquidators, located in Winter Park, Colo.
There is also a matching Doggy Dream Home for their dog, Lucy, a 2007 GMC Acadia from GMC, and the $250,000 cash prize from LendingTree.com.
"He is so lucky," said Robert Jr., who knows what he is talking about.
Shortly after retiring in 1999, O'Neill won $13,000 in the Florida lottery.
"That was nice," he said.
O'Neill and his first wife, who was suffering from cancer, were able to pay off their bills and go on a cruise.
In 2002 he entered a contest sponsored by Pepsi.
"When I got the letter I thought I had won a gas grill," he said.
Instead it was a Jeep Liberty.
"The Lord has blessed me again," O'Neill said.
However, his first wife died of her cancer, and he and Lorie married six months ago. Most of the wedding guests were at the party. As HGTV viewers from around the country were watching, Clive Pearse and special guest HGTV Design Star winner David Bromstad kept viewers waiting to see who won the $100,000 runner-up prize. It went to Robert Reed of Richmond.
O'Neill was still thinking his son's promotion was a mixed blessing if it meant he was moving to New York (the cover story). "After all, I moved here from Florida to be with him, his wife Jill and granddaughters Courtney and Ashley, and now they're moving away."
Then they were all hugging and kissing him instead.
"This changes all our lives completely," O'Neill said. "You wonder what it is that causes your name to pop out of so many people."
Friday they'll fly to Colorado to look at the house and be treated royally by HGTV. When asked if he would move to Colorado, O'Neill replied "no comment."
In addition to the prospect of moving away from his family once again, there is the matter of taxes on a sweepstakes drawing this big, and property taxes in Colorado.
"Low property taxes were one of our reasons for moving to Tennessee," O'Neill said.
In his previous sweepstakes entries, O'Neill bought the postage stamps and mailed in each of his multiple entries. He broke the mold on the Dream Home Giveaway by entering 10 or 11 times online.
"I never had any faith in online entries," he said with the skepticism of a former postmaster. "I figured the computer just swallowed them up and deleted them."