Sweepstakes winner Bill Tomicki.

He Won a Million: Bill Tomicki, a Montecito travel writer, has won $1 million dollars in a Jackpot Rewards sweepstakes drawing. Tomicki, editor and publisher of ENTRE Travel Newsletter and the senior editor of Traveler Overseas Magazine, learned of the win by cell phone while in Aurangabad, India, where he was on assignment exploring the ancient caves of Ajanta.

“I was stunned, to say the least,” said Tomicki, who plans to donate some of his winnings to charities.

Jackpot Rewards, a Massachusetts-headquartered online rewards program, provides consumers with cash back on online purchases as well as exclusive deals and discounts. Members are automatically entered into three drawings every week for Jackpot’s of more than $100 million, and have the chance to enter Sunday’s $1 Million jackpot. Founded in 2007, Jackpot Rewards gives back by donating 50 percent of its profits to charities that are dedicated to improving the health, well-being, and educational opportunities of children across America and around the world.

“I joined Jackpot Rewards primarily to access their great deals,” Tomicki said. “The prospect of winning the sweepstakes was secondary. But this is a win-win for all who participate. The company’s principals have strong roots in charitable giving and I hope to do credit to that with my efforts.”

One of Tomicki’s main causes is supporting women in remote areas to become self-supporting through cottage industries, an initiative he first learned about in Swaziland. He also is a benefactor for disabled children in Varanasi, India.

Tomicki, a former travel columnist for the New York Times Syndicate, has been a Montecito resident for 25 years. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he served as vice president of Tiffany and Sotheby’s. His colorful travel writing career has taken him to over 100 countries. Along the way, Tomicki was knighted in both France and Portugal. He served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves during the Vietnam War and is married to artist/photographer Barbara Tomicki. They have two sons, Theron and Hadley. Bill plans to celebrate with friends and family at a Jackpot reception Monday night at the Four Seasons Biltmore.

Oprah’s Billions: It seems like only a couple of years ago that Montecitan Oprah Winfrey was only worth a mere $800 million or so. But now, according to the current New Yorker magazine, she’s got $2.5 billion to her credit. At 54, she’s got her fingers in many media pies. For those interested in following what she’s up to, she’s created a website, Oprah Winfrey Network. She apparently cooks up new ventures “in her teahouse on her estate in California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with her cocker spaniel Sophie.” Not bad for a woman raised in poverty in the deep South.

A Good Egg: Until his last illness, you could usually find Herb Peterson at lunchtime with his buddies at the Santa Barbara Club. Herb, who died this week at 89, was known as the man who invented the Egg McMuffin. When I wrote about this a few years ago I was contacted by a young man who claimed that he and his fellow kitchen workers at one of the local McDonald’s actually came up with the snack and suggested it to management. He said they were playing around, making breakfast, when they made an egg sandwich with a slice of cheese and Canadian bacon, open-faced on a toasted, buttered English muffin. I talked to Herb, who scoffed at the idea, and insisted that he was the true author of the fast-food snack that helped McDonald’s get into the breakfast market. Wonder if those guys are still around town? A public memorial for Herb will be held April 23 at All Saints by the Sea Church in Montecito.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.


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