Fortune smiles on Carson City retiree |

Fortune smiles on Carson City retiree

peter thompson

Martina Varner, center, enjoys a moment on Friday with her son Carroll Varner, left, and daughter-in-law Josephine while talking about Martina Varner's good fortune at the Carson Nugget. Brad Horn Nevada Appeal

Carson City’s Martina Varner should have no problem buying a vowel any time soon. Or much of anything else, for that matter.

The oversized novelty check with the Wheel of Fortune logo on display on her family’s dining room table will see to that.

The 87-year-old great-grandmother of 47 and great-great-grandmother to two quietly fed $40 of her $150 stash into a quarter progressive Wheel of Fortune slot machine on Wednesday night at the Carson Nugget.

Almost immediately, Varner nailed the MegaJackpot for $319,202.78.

Not too surprising for a woman who spent World War II toiling in the shipyards and earning her the nickname “Rosie the Riviter” from her adoring family. She may move a bit slower these days, but she still has the manual dexterity of a concert pianist.

It was the first time the popular quarter progressive had been hit at the Nugget.

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While the news spread almost immediately to her vast extended family through a complicated tree of e-mails, it took a while for Varner herself to realize exactly what had happened.

With all of the noise and the feedback from her hearing aids, she thought somebody else had won. The crowd that gathered around her quickly brought her up to speed.

“I usually go play on Tuesday,” grieved the retired Marin County nurse, relaxing in the sunken living room of her son Carroll and daughter-in-law Josephine’s stone modernist home in Jacks Valley.

Her face, already bright, betrays a sly smile, her eyes shining freely behind her glasses.

“She was upset because we couldn’t take her to the casino on her usual day,” laughs her son, playing along in disbelief.

Apparently, Martina got over the affront to her gambling schedule pretty quickly. As she likes to say, “It was just one of those things.”

One of those things that seem to happen to her quite a lot. Like the time she took the Hyatt for $2,000. Or the time she walked out of Harrah’s with more than $4,000. Or the time one of her grandchildren won a brand-new Mercedes Benz playing the slots.

Though planning on purchasing a new, more MegaJackpot-friendly set of hearing aids, she hasn’t thought of anything else to spend her winnings on just yet. She went for her usual hair appointment on Friday and looks forward to her next trip to the Nugget. One day at a time.

“As long as I’m good,” she says, conspiratorially, “they’ll take me next Tuesday.”

Contact Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.