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Grafton man wins $64,000 on 'Millionaire' program

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

Grafton resident Tom Reneau was afraid he would get a question about art. When the question came, he wasn't sure which French painter spent the last years of his life in the South Pacific. But, in the end, he won enough money on Tuesday night's broadcast of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" to visit the islands himself.

Reneau, 42, a fire claims specialist for State Farm Insurance, took home $64,000 from the wildly popular ABC game show after he walked away from the $125,000 question.

He used his last lifeline, the "50/50," on the question, which asked which French painter spent the last years of his life in the South Pacific.

The computer took away painters Pierre-August Renoir and Claude Monet, leaving Reneau to choose between Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.

With just a few minutes of deliberation, Reneau walked away. After prompting by host Regis Philbin, Reneau guessed Gauguin, which was the correct answer.

Before the show, Reneau had decided that he would stop if he was unsure of an answer.

"The producer suggested you come up with a strategy. I decided that if I got to that level and was not completely sure of the answer, I was going to quit," he said.

Reneau said he was nervous, but was greatly relieved when he got the $100 question right.

"At least I knew I wasn't going to make a fool of myself," he said.

Reneau's wife, Deneane, was in the audience while he was in the "hot seat."

Reneau has enjoyed an eclectic career. The seventh of nine children, he graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan with a degree in elementary education.

He later completed his master's degree in communications at West Virginia University. Reneau has worked as a teacher at Anna Jarvis Elementary School and also coached football and track at Grafton High School.

Reneau said earlier this week that he has been trying to qualify for the show since November.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446

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