Neal Wanless, a Rags To Riches Story


Neal Wanless

His mobile home, sitting on his ranch in mission, S.D. had been repossessed. The family owed $3,552 in property taxes. They would eventually need to leave the property. Then one day, Neal Wanless headed to Winner, S.D., to buy hay for his cattle. He had made some money by selling scrap metal. While in Winner, he decided to stop by the Ampride convenience store and buy $5 in Lotto tickets.

He Selected Birthdays

Wanless selected relatives’ birthday dates. Sharon Ulmer, who manages the store where the tickets were purchased, said, “From what I understand, they don’t have a lot, so money definitely went to a good place.”

Numbers Are Selected

The numbers for the lotto were called. The cowboy learned he had won the $232 million Powerball jackpot. Wanless did not rush into Winner to collect his prize for one month. When he did go, he said, “I want to thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity and blessing me with this great fortune. I will not squander it.” Wearing a black hat and a wide grin, the twenty-three-year-old collected his big check.

Neighbor Speaks Up

Dave Assman, who owns the land next to the Wanless property, said, “They’ve been really short on finances for a long time. They are from real meager means I guess you’d say.”

Wanless Moves To Colorado

When Wanless won the jackpot, in 2009, it was the largest in S.D. history. He eventually took the cash payout of $88 million, bought ranch property near Vale, and moved. To this day, he maintains a low profile. 

He Creates Bismark Ranch

Wanlessmark had big plans after winning the lottery in June 2009. And, he has kept his plans. He said he would buy some extra land. He did just that, in Vale. He purchased 5,800 acres of agricultural land. He named the property Bismark Ranch. According to records, he has made thousands and thousands of dollars of improvements to the ranch. These include an indoor riding arena, stables, and equipment shed. There is also a 2,572 square-foot home along with a 1,768 square-foot garage. He has also fenced most of the property. He said he would continue working, and he has. 

Remembered As A Good Kid

Wanless’ teachers recall that he was a good kid. Several were concerned that others would swindle his money. Others remember him as the cross-country runner, band member, and 2004 Salutatorian after placing second in his class. He seems to be making it in life, and he seems to be spending his winnings wisely.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see if we could hold on to that much money and spend it wisely?