Wild Northerner Magazine Winter 2018 - Page 64

BY SCOTT HADDOW

Wild Northerner staff

Matt Landry is a True Wild Northerner.

The 42-year-old Chelmsford man is just like so many northern Ontario people in that he loves fishing and hunting, followed by a cold beer or two at camp.

Landry loves every moment he spends with family and friends on the lake and in the bush.

Landry has Holt Oram syndrome. He was born with it. The syndrome affected the development of the bones in his arms and hands. It also gave him a heart condition, which requires a pacemaker.

Landry has had challenges his whole life, no doubt. Absolutely none of them stops Landry from being outdoors.

“I’ve proved my whole life I am not disabled,” Landry said. “I don’t see myself that way. I didn’t lose my arms. I was born this way and have little arms. I have always had to do it my way. It might take me a bit longer, but I can do everything.”

In Grade 2, Landry tried prosthetics to make a difference. Landry flat out “didn’t like them.” Landry had supportive parents who were with him through thick and thin and let him try anything he wanted to. Landry accepted it and made the most of life. As he grew up, Landry was in the Beavers and Cub programs and was a Boy Scout and was also a hockey referee and took the forestry program at Sir Sanford Fleming College. His father and grandad did a lot o fishing and hunting and they got Landry out by the time he was five with a rod, jigging for walleye.

Landry has no troubles operating a boat, driving his truck or ATV and can handle a chainsaw like a professional. He can handle baiting his own hook and casting and fighting the fish.

“I grew with it,” Landry said. “Nothing is built for me. I’ve had to make things adapt to me. It’s trial and error sometimes. I can’t stand still. I can’t just sit around the house. You have to be where you are happy. I love being at home, but I love being on my boat and fishing. If I’m not out at least once a week, I get antsy.”

Family and friends hold a big place in Landry’s heart. He has been married for 16 years to his wife, Nancy, and he thanks her for “putting up” with him. The couple have a daughter, Reegan, 8, and their son, Jordan, who passed away four years ago from a heart condition. Landry gets out as much as he can with family.

“It’s my passion to fish,” he said. “Getting to do that with family is nice and it means a lot to me.”

Landry counts a good group of guys as being beacons in his life. He leans on these guys. Landry’s good buddies – Andre Blais, Dan Blais and Jeff McLaren – are Landry’s “regulars” and just people he knows he can trust.

“I can do a lot, but I still need help with minor details,” Landry said. “Guys like Andre, Dan and Jeff make it possible and positive for me to be more active. I can count on them. I realize I can be a pain in the ass, but it means everything to have a close circle of friends to help me get outdoors a little easier.”

McLaren has known Landry for more than 20 years, since they met in college. McLaren moved from southern Ontario to northern Ontario six years ago. It gave him the chance for the two old friends to fish regularly. They try and make sure to get out about 20 times a season.

Landry gives McLaren new perspectives on life all the time.

“Matt is a great guy to fish with and spend time with,” McLaren said. “You spend five minutes with Matty and you forget he has any disability. He can do anything he wants. He never complains. He just does it. He has his own style and he can smack fish. Now, he can whine like a mule if the fish are not biting, but never about his situation and what he has gone through. I’m a bigger guy. I will not take my shirt off in a boat if it is hot because I am embarrassed. Not Matty. He never sweats the small stuff. We go places, and people will look at him or ask about him. He talks to them. It doesn’t get to him. I think it is a cool quality he has. He changes the way I feel about myself. I get a lot out of the guy. He is resilient as hell.”

Landry is friendly and his personality leads to some funny situations for his friends.

“I call him small town famous,” McLaren said. “If you go fishing with him, you have to leave an hour earlier so he can stop and say ‘hi’ to all the people he knows at the boat launch. We met strangers at a launch once and it took 20 minutes to get him away. It’s crazy and it’s great. It is just who he is.”

Landry is also involved in giving back to the resources he loves. He has volunteered with the Azilda Community Pickerel Hatchery since 2014, and has been volunteering for 17 years overall, having previously been with Chelmsford Fish and Game Association.

Landry plans on exploring more of northern Ontario, especially the Northwest region over the years. No matter what happens, count on Landry being on a lake, whether open water or ice fishing, as much as he can.

“I love being outdoors so much it is like an addiction,” he said. “When I go fishing, I want to go again and again and again. I’ve been through some tough things. It is great therapy for me.”

True Wild Northerner

Persistence fuels Landry’s passion