Getting to know Flywheeler Deb Matthew

By Chris Faulknor


Deb Matthew is pictured with her Doodlebug car.
Deb Matthew is pictured with her Doodlebug car.

A lifetime in Northern Michigan, a brush with God, and the example of her parents are only a few of the things that shaped the life of Deb Matthew throughout the past decades—that, and showing the young and old what life on a farm was (and is) really like.

Matthew grew up in Walloon Lake, attending and graduating from Petoskey High School, but found herself sick with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after graduating.

“Thanks to God and some wonderful drugs and doctors, I’m mobile despite having rheumatoid arthritis for over 40 years,” said Matthew.

Since then, an immense portion of her life has been devoted to demonstrating the true farm life and working hard on her favorite event, the annual Tractor Pull for the Northern Michigan Antique Flywheelers.

“I grew up going to engine shows with my parents,” said Matthew. “We had a stone burr mill and ground corn at many shows in Michigan.”

The family traveled border to border, going as far as Escanaba and Kalamazoo with their equipment, eventually leading to the infancy of what is now the Flywheelers Club.

“28 years ago, my father Larry Matthew called me and told me he was thinking of starting an engine club on our farm,” she said. “So, I became involved with the Flywheelers their very first year, and I’m a charter and life member of the club.

And since then, the club has continued to flourish, culminating with their recent awarding of a registered service mark.

“When we designed the logo, it was with input from all club members. We are a service mark because we’re a service minded non-profit,” said Matthew. “We’re all really proud that we’ve accomplished that.”

But as it turns out, Matthew’ love of the organization goes far beyond wheels, mills, and ground corn.

“My favorite part is the camaraderie of the people who exhibit their pride and joy, and the people who come to our gate and allow us to share a bit of our grandparents’ history with them,” said Matthew. “We’re at a lot of the same shows, and a big extended family.

Beyond her work in the organization, Matthew volunteers on the Hudson Township Auxiliary Board and loves taking care of animals.

“I take care of peoples’ dogs when the go away on vacation.”

That said, Matthew says that her heart is and will always be in the mill.

“I’m 99 ¾ percent involved with the Flywheelers year round, and start working on next year’s show each September.