Owings Mills couple wins the lottery of love and a real lottery, too

(Maryland Lottery )
January 07, 2013|By L'Oreal Thompson, The Baltimore Sun

Imagine marrying the love of your life and winning the lottery a few weeks later. This is exactly what happened to Debby Opper, 51, of Owings Mills, last month. On Dec. 1, Opper married Hassan Manafikhalesi, 58, at a ceremony and reception at Martin’s West in Baltimore. And on Dec. 28, she won $250,000 in the Mega Millions prize drawing.

"It's been quite a month for us," says Opper.

The two met at a singles dance about six years ago. When Manafikhalesi popped the question in October 2012, the couple quickly went to work planning a wedding but hadn't scheduled a lengthy honeymoon because Opper was taking care of her mother, who lived in a nursing home. Unfortunately, Opper's mother passed away on Nov. 25 -- just a week before the wedding.

On Christmas Eve, Opper decided to purchase a lottery ticket before attending midnight Mass. But she later slipped in her driveway, hit her head and forgot all about the ticket. About a week later, she remembered the ticket and went to One Stop Convenience in Reisterstown, where she was a regular customer, to check it.

“I was checking my stack of tickets and one was for $2 and then the other for $4 and one said ‘present at lottery,’ which I thought was strange. So I gave it to Rocco, the manager, and he said, ‘I think you won $250,000,’” explains Opper. “I said, ‘No way!’”

The couple plans to start a taxi service with their earnings and take a much-deserved honeymoon.

“Seeing as how we have this great big check now, we’ve decided to take a nice honeymoon,” she says. “My brother and sister-in-law were married two years ago and didn’t get a chance to go on a honeymoon, so we’re going to double date on our honeymoon.”

Opper says the couples are planning a cruise to either Puerto Rico or the Bahamas for October 2013.

“I told them at the lottery office that years ago, I won a cruise to Mexico and my ship came in,” she says. “Now I married my Prince Charming and we have our pot of gold. I feel so blessed and very lucky.”

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