2013 1105 queen of hearts

Just call her the Queen of Hearts — or maybe “Queen of Diamonds” would be more apropos.

Terri Nirrengarten of Baiting Hollow won a $67,000 jackpot in the Queen of Hearts progressive raffle at the Riverhead Moose Lodge Friday night.

The game was in its 48th week and the size of the jackpot — which grows each week and was increasing more quickly in recent weeks as the odds of winning got better and better — drew Moose members from across Long Island and even out of state.

More than 350 people were at the Moose Lodge Friday night for the raffle. There were four numbered envelopes left on the board.

The atmosphere was very tense,

She said she could hardly believe it when one of the 200 $1 raffle tickets she’d purchased Friday night was pulled from the hopper and they called her name out, giving her the one in four chance to pick the envelope with the Queen of Hearts tucked inside.

“She was already crying as they led her to the board to pick her envelope,” past governor of the Riverhead Moose Lodge George Yaede said.

Nirrengarten said her 7-year-old daughter Mikayla told her to pick the envelope bearing the number 48.

The man running the game took down envelope number 48, looked inside and told her, “You’d better sit down,” Nirrengarten said.

“Then,” Yaede recalled, “she just lost it.”

It was the best $200 investment Nirrengarten’s ever made, netting her just over $67,100 — 60 percent of a total pot just shy of $112,000.

Here’s how “Search for the Queen of Hearts,” a game of chance licensed by the state gaming commission, works. The 52 cards in a deck of ordinary playing cards are placed in numbered envelopes. The envelopes go on a board under a locked glass case. Each card is assigned a dollar value, with the Queen of Hearts being worth 60 percent of the cumulative pot.

Players — the game is only open to members of the Moose — buy raffle tickets for $1 each in the hope of winning the chance to pick an envelope and find the Queen of Hearts within.

Nirrengarten, 49, a retired NYC police detective, said she plays the game regularly at the Moose, which she joined about seven years ago. She and her husband, a retired city firefighter, built a home in Baiting Hollow in 2000.

Friday was a tough day for the Nirrengartens and the jackpot was bittersweet, she said. They are foster parents, and the 6-year-old foster child who’d lived with them for eight months was returned to her family that day. Then word came that an old friend died suddenly of a heart attack that day.

“I was feeling very sad Friday night and I was sitting there texting with a friend when they called my name,” Nirrengarten said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

Search for the Queen of Hearts is a fundraiser for the Moose Lodge, a fraternal group that does a lot of good things in the local community and beyond, Nirrengarten said.

The Loyal Order of Moose runs an orphanage in Chicago and a senior citizens home for the indigent elderly who don’t have family to care for them, Riverhead Moose Lodge community service chairperson Maureen Passantino said.

Riverhead Moose Lodge, the largest in New York State, with more than 2,000 members, does many good works in the local community — everything from hosting the high school football team for dinner every Friday night during football season, to hosting blood drives, sponsoring scout clubs, supporting Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, the Wounded Warrior Project and the Riverhead Community Awareness Program, she said.

Riverhead’s Moose Lodge was recognized with a community service award by the statewide organization in September at the annual convention in Lake Placid, the lodge’s current governor, Vincent Passantino said.


Caption: Terri Nirrengarten and her daughter Mikayla with the elusive Queen of Hearts that was worth $67,000 in the Riverhead Moose Lodge game of chance last week.

RiverheadLOCAL photo by Peter Blasl

Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.