It was a chilly Montreal day last December when Gregorio De Santis bought a lottery ticket, worth maybe even less than the paper stock it was printed on.

He tucked it away in a jacket pocket and forgot to check the lottery numbers on Dec. 6, when a drawing netted $5.4 million (U.S.) across four winning tickets.

But at least one-quarter of that prize — about $1.35 million — went unclaimed.

Winter slid into spring, followed by summer and its fading warmth.

At some point, De Santis’s sister urged him to clear out his old clothes and donate them, according to the provincial lottery commission, Loto-Québec. He tucked his hands into a liner pocket and felt the ticket.

It was worth a shot to look if he won a few bucks, De Santis told the commission. He checked the ticket at a store’s display on Friday, and it lit up with a four-digit number. He celebrated what he thought was a win of more than $1,000.

Then he began to realize that there were a string of zeros attached to the end. It nearly gave him a heart attack, he said.

His improbable win was a product of timing. Winning tickets are valid for up to a year after the drawing, according to Loto-Québec’s rules — so De Santis had only about two months left to discover the ticket before his prize was gone forever.

He will use the money to finance his retirement and take his nephew to some hockey games, he told the commission, and he thanked his sister for her advice on tidying up.

“I would never have looked in this wardrobe without her,” he said.

Powerball announced that a single ticket sold at a convenience store in Chicopee, Mass., was the winner of the Aug. 23 $758.7 million jackpot. Here’s how winning the lottery has brought more than a windfall for some. (Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)