From The Kinks to the Community Association
Ray and Gina Kerler-Lovegrove have a long and fascinating road to Sun City Center
By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
SUN CITY CENTER — He is a retired roadie from one of the biggest rock bands in the history of music. She is a former Miss Wales. Together, this unassuming couple has called Sun City Center their “home away from home” for the past seven years.
After a stint in the army, Ray Kerler-Lovegrove met The Kinks in a pub in 1964, just as the British Invasion was preparing to roll across America. The band needed a driver and Ray fit the bill, and thus he began a seven-year career with the legendary British band. Over the years, he also worked with rock legends from Chuck Berry to Jimi Hendrix.
The Kinks, inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, had a notorious reputation for band member disputes and on-stage antics; the latter, apparently, resulted in a performance ban in the United States during the peak of the British Invasion in the late 1960s. Kerler-Lovegrove had seen enough and left the band after a year or so but remained in the industry, working with names that have now become legendary. One of his favorite stories involves Keith Moon, the drummer for The Who, and a white Rolls Royce owned by record producer Shel Talmy.
“The white Rolls Royce?” he asked with a smile. “I crashed that and it was because of Keith Moon. It was 3 o’clock in the morning; we had been in the nightclubs and Keith was in the back. He suddenly threw his hands around my face and said, “Guess Who?”
The accident happened within seconds, causing major damage. Years later, Ray contacted Talmy in Los Angeles and told him the story of how his car was destroyed. “He said, ‘I had a feeling. I knew Moon was involved.’”
“It was a very spectacular time,” Ray said nostalgically. “A lot of the people I knew in show business have died, mainly because of their own faults and misuse of drugs.”
Keith Moon was among them. Considered one of the world’s greatest and most influential drummers, he died of a drug overdose in 1978. Ironically, the drug was prescribed to him to alleviate problems associated with alcohol withdrawal. During that time, Moon was trying to get clean.
“I have never been on drugs; but I had seen a lot of people around me getting crazy on that sort of thing,” Ray said.
In 1975 he gave up all trappings of the rock & roll lifestyle when he met Gina. Thirty-six years later, other than an occasional glass of wine, he has never returned to it.
“When I worked in the music scene I never thought I would pass 50, yet alone make 66,” he said. “I guess not taking drugs in those days has kept me in good health.”
After leaving the music industry, he returned to his childhood home in Wales.
“I was watching the TV one night and the show [the Miss Wales Pageant] came on and I thought she was nice and she won it,” Ray said, speaking of his future wife, then-Gina Kerler, who won the Miss Wales pageant in 1975. “Lo and behold, a couple of weeks later—I lived on the top floor apartment, it was an old apartment—I heard this woman walking down the street. I spent a few months baiting her and she eventually went out with me. About four months after that, we moved in together and we’ve been together ever since.”
Gina was 11 years his junior, but she apparently brought out the best in Ray. Together, the couple laid the foundation for a successful life and business. They went on to create the Manor Lodge Residential Home, an assisted living facility in Exmouth, Devon in the United Kingdom. The facility, a large Edwardian house set on a half acre of gardens, is 12 miles from the city of Exeter, approximately 200 miles west of London.
“Everything is quality,” Ray said of the facility. “Quality carpets, quality furniture, even our pictures are limited editions.”
The residential home is designed to not only provide a place for seniors in need of services; it is designed to enhance their remaining years of life in all respects.
It may seem a long road from the stage of beauty pageants and the world of 1960s rock & roll to operating a high-end residential facility for seniors, but Ray and Gina make that progression seem natural and fluid. Longer still might be the road that leads from a crashed Rolls Royce with Keith Moon to living in Sun City Center, yet the youthful-looking couple does not see a disconnect on their journey from there to here. They enjoy the peace and quiet found in the community. They enjoy feeling safe here. They would love to spend even more time in the Sun City Center home they have owned for seven years, but are limited by U.S. laws governing how long non-citizens can stay.
“We only came to Sun City Center by chance, but I think we were always meant to come here,” Ray said.
With the impending royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton on April 29, the eyes of America turn towards Britain. In recognition of the event, Ray and Gina donated the book, Invitation to the Royal Wedding by Ian Lloyd, to the Sun City Center Library. It is the third book the couple has donated, the first two were written by former Exmouth town crier F. Tregarthen Gibson, Exmouth, Her Age of Elegance and Oh Yez! Oh Yez! Oh Yez! The story of a Town Crier.
To many Americans, the British royalty falls into the realm of celebrity fascination. For Ray and Gina, they are a way of life.
“Royalty has been a part of my life all the way through,” said Gina. “It’s just been there, it’s part of our history. William is going to be king someday.”
Gina went on to say she believes the royal family to be just like any other normal family, with similar problems to most families, but they are all too easily burdened with bad press.
With the impending wedding, Ray and Gina’s latest donation to the library is certainly popular. As of press-time, the book was already checked out.
Inside their tranquil home, a colorful, customized Dean electric guitar on display near the dining room is the only subtle hint of a former life. Their memories are spectacular, the peace is priceless.