MANTUA: As the pot for the Queen of Hearts game eclipsed $1 million, fortune seekers began driving to Garrettsville with increasing regularity. Each week, they flooded SkyLane Bowling, exchanging fistfuls of cash for strings of raffle tickets.

“I didn’t pay much attention to it for 52 weeks,” said Terri Vechery of Mantua. “I knew the traffic was bad. So, I avoided Garrettsville altogether.”

But her friends, who live there, kept her in the loop. At a checkup in Geauga County on Friday, her doctor told her the pot was over $3 million. The winner would take home 90 percent, with the remaining 10 percent rolling over into the next game.

“That stuck in my head,” said Vechery, who decided that night to grab some ice cream in Garrettsville and swing by the bowling alley with her daughter, who bought six tickets.

Vechery bought a single ticket. On the back of the little yellow ticket, she scribbled the only single-digit number left in the deck of cards.

“That’s the only reason I picked five, because it’s a small number and I could fit it on that ticket,” she said.

She never suspected she’d hit it big with that small number.

On Sunday, the phone rang. Probably a solicitor, she thought.

She picked up.

“Hello?”

No answer.

Moments passed and the number appeared again, this time with an option to accept a FaceTime call.

“The next thing I knew, there was Aaron King’s face on my phone,” she said of the bowling alley owner who she recognized from the news.

“He said, ‘I want you to know that we just drew your number for the Queen of Hearts drawing,’ ” Vechery recalled Tuesday, laughing at how clueless she must have sounded. “I said, ‘Oh, what does that mean?’

“So he turns the card over and I can just hear the crowd going crazy. He says, ‘It is the Queen of Hearts.’ ”

“What does that mean?” she asked again.

“I started to shake. And then he said, ‘You just won over $3 million.’ And I just lost it. Because what are the odds? One ticket. One time. Number 5.”

Being a millionaire doesn’t suit Vechery, who has worked for airlines, as a real estate agent and, before retiring, 16 years as a shop clerk at Aurora Farms.

After her husband, John A. Vechery, passed from lung cancer in 2012, she decided their 4,000-square-foot home was too big. So she swapped houses with her son, who has three children.

She plans to spend the bulk of the money on Mantua, where her husband was a building inspector, cemetery caretaker and historian.

“When he passed away, of course being married 35 years, I knew what he wanted to do,” Vechery said. “I went out after recovering from his death to make baby steps in the way that he wanted Mantua to go.”

As a former executive on the village zoning commission, Vechery encouraged Mantua trustees to buy the old schoolhouse in town. She founded the Mantua Restoration Society and raised $200,000 to rehab the school building.

With her winnings, she’s set her sights on the town hall and church, each built in the early 1800s.

She also has plans to invest in historic downtown Mantua, turning rustic old buildings into bike shops, canoe rental offices or hostels, using the Upper Cuyahoga River that runs through the heart of the village to boost tourism and the money to preserve its pristine heritage.

“Everyone asks if I’m going to change. I won’t. I can’t. I’m too old to change. I’m 69. Why would I change now?” she laughed.

She still plans to volunteer, do crafts and keeps close friends close.

“It just hasn’t all sunk in yet.”

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @ABJDoug.