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Detroit Free Press; December 8, 2013


Outdoors: Heroes coming out of the woods

By Lydia Lohrer Detroit Free Press Special Writer Filed Under Sports Outdoors

Dec. 07


Tony Keith of West Branch shows off his first buck, a hunt made possible by Matt Arbour of Hunters for Life member

Hunters for life

If you’d like to be a hero and share your time with someone interested in learning to hunt or fish, go to or for information and how to help. The American dream falters as Detroit’s bankruptcy crushes decades of hopes for pensioners. And still, politicians party like Kardashians. Clearly it’s time to pull off the roadway of despair for some Pure Michigan air.

We need the reassurance of timeless tree lines, the hope of the northern lights and everyday heroes. Sometimes heroes seem to just come out of the woodwork, or in this case, the woods.

Matt Arbour is an average Joe in many ways. During business hours he stalks the car dealerships he owns near West Branch. In classic hero fashion, he will deny that he is heroic at all.

Tony Keith disagrees. Keith does computer repair and maintenance. He is also a C6 incomplete quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair. He has limited-to-no use of his fingers and is paralyzed from his chest down. Keith’s injury stemmed from a diving accident at age 18. Twelve years later he met his wife, Crystal, and they moved from Detroit to West Branch.

Life was paradise on the two acres they owned and with the two children that followed. “We lived on land surrounded by farm fields,” Keith said. “I loved the peace. I could breathe better because of the trees. When I went to bed it was dark, and I could sleep. I could see the stars.” Keith loved it, but he wanted more: “To be able to go to my backyard and get food for my family, that was my dream.” It was a dream deferred. Keith missed a mortgage payment. His work was limited, and money got even tighter with a sick child in the hospital. He called two weeks in advance and offered to pay interest, but he says the mortgage company said no. Foreclosed upon, the family was stunned and homeless. They tried to get into a homeless shelter for families, but Keith said no one would accept them with an intact family. “It had to be either my wife and the kids or me and the kids. No one would take both of us,” he said. The family had to move from West Branch. It would be several years before they could return to the location they loved, but this time they were living in a specialized apartment designed for disabled living — with no place to hunt. This did not entirely deter Keith. “I took my son crossbow hunting at the Rose City recreation center and used the only handicapped blind in the state,” he said. “You wheel in it and lifts up. We just saw birds and squirrels. No deer.

“My wife mentioned this on Facebook to a friend that she had gone to school with, Chelley Arbour. Chelley said her husband might help me find a place to hunt.” This is where Matt Arbour stepped in. “I told Tony, first you need to practice,” Arbour said. “We met at the shooting range. The first time he shot, he fell right over. Out of the chair.” Arbour was nervous, “Are you all right?” “Heck, yeah, I’m all right!” Keith responded.

A friendship was born. “Tony was shooting as if he had shot for years, even without the full use of his fingers. Now we needed to

get him out into the woods,” Arbour said. Arbour set him up on a road-accessible food plot: “The wind howled while I clung to the blind so it wouldn’t blow away.” On that day, Keith got his first deer. If you ask Arbour, this is where the story ends. If you ask Keith, however, it’s an ongoing tale of kindness. “A week ago last Monday it was 29 degrees out and my lift broke. I was stuck in a parking lot for two hours. Matt came to my rescue,” Keith said. “He got me into the van and followed me home to help me out and closed the van back up. Then, amazingly, he arranged for me to finance the repair of my lift.”

Now, the two buddies are going muzzle loading this season so they can top off Keith’s freezer. In the meantime, Keith wants to pay it forward. He is planning to build a handicapped blind out of a mobile trailer that others can use.

I guess there are more heroes coming out of the woodwork, er, woods.

Written by
Contact the author at
Lydia Lohrer
Detroit Free Press Special Writer



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