'It doesn't feel real yet': Sycamore man discusses winning $1M VFW Queen of Hearts drawing

Josh Billips (center) poses for a group photo with members of the Morris VFW on Thursday, March 8, 2018, after collecting his $1.5 Million winnings at the Morris VFW in Morris, Ill.[]

MORRIS – Before noon, there usually aren't many people in the bar at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6049. Sycamore resident Josh Billips, however, stopped by Thursday morning with his family to fill out some paperwork after winning a million bucks through the post's Queen of Hearts drawing.

The post's auxiliary treasurer ,Jim Maskel, brought out the tax forms Billips needed to fill out.

"The bad part is the taxes, but our state really needs it," Maskel joked.

Billips' name was the 12th drawn Monday during the Queen of Hearts drawdown. Although he had guessed number 4, the special drawdown rules meant he could choose to go higher or lower, if his number was already turned over. It meant his card would be 15.

It took a few tries to get him to answer the phone, however.

“I didn’t recognize the number, and it went to voicemail,” Billips said that night. “Once I heard the message, I called back right away.”

Billips won 70 percent of the $1,595,107 pot, or $1,116,575, before taxes.

On Thursday, he said it hadn't really sunk in yet, and that it didn't yet feel real. He had no plans yet for the winnings.

"I'm going to take it slow for now," Billips said. "It's not quit-my-job money."

He said he'll probably be setting up for the future. He has three kids, one of whom will start college in the near future.

Billips did split the money with his mom. He said that his parents were coming to Morris on Saturday in order to buy tickets, so he gave them some money to buy some for him, as well.

After signing the paperwork, Billips and his family took pictures in the VFW Hall in front of the new fireplace, one of the projects the post has been able to afford because of its share of the Queen of Hearts drawing that has been coming in. The post has also put in a new bar and a new roof.

Monday was the second time the posts drawing has gone to the $1.5 million mark. The VFW sent Billips home with the Queen of Hearts board as another souvenir from the event.

Billips said he rarely plays raffles or lottery tickets and, other than a small scratch-off, he said he's never won anything before either.

"It doesn't feel real yet," he said.