One of the gang

Outdoor enthusiast discovers just-right lifestyle at Brooksby Village

Sara Martin
November 23, 2018

Ray Gerke inherited his love of outdoor pursuits from his parents.

"My mother and father were extremely active," he says. "As a family we were always on the go. My brother and I grew up skiing. We lived on Long Island so it was quite a distance to some of the bigger ski hills, but I remember skiing in the Catskills and Appalachian Mountains."

As an adult, Ray's enthusiasm for sports hasn't waned. He's an avid cyclist and downhill skier who seizes every opportunity for an outdoor adventure.

"I was working out at one of the Boston Sports Club locations when a friend came over and told me she had just the club for me," says Ray. "That's when I first heard about the Top of the Hill Gang."

The Top of the Hill Gang is a New England-based club of more than 400 members, ages 50 and up, who enjoy year-round recreational and social activities. They ski, hike, canoe, bike, kayak, play golf, and travel together.

"When the club started in 1987, it was originally part of a national network, the Over the Hill Gang," says Ray. "In the mid-1990s, it broke off from the national group to become more of a regional organization, and that's when the name changed to Top of the Hill Gang. There are so many great opportunities for outdoor excursions in Massachusetts and surrounding states."

And while most club members live in the Boston metropolitan area, membership isn't restricted to local residents.

"We have one member who lives in San Francisco and joins us for a ski trip every year," says Ray. "There's another member who lives in Arizona."

One good decision leads to another

Ray joined the Top of the Hill Gang in 2010, three years after he retired as assistant director and head of reference department at Concord Free Public Library.

"It was fun to bike and ski with people who enjoyed those activities as much as I did," he says. "The club suited me very well."

One good decision led to another, as Ray was soon introduced to Brooksby Village.

"One of the Top of the Hill Gang's board members lived at Brooksby Village and hosted a board meeting at Brooksby," says Ray. "I hadn't heard of the place before, but I was impressed by the community."

Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., is home to nearly 1,800 residents. The community, situated on a scenic 90-acre campus, offers an abundance of onsite amenities, including a fitness center, swimming pool, bank, salon, neighborhood store, library, pharmacy, and medical center.

"The grounds were beautiful, and the people were friendly," Ray says. "I got the sense that it would be a good place to live."

At the time, Ray was living in a condo in Reading. As his involvement with the Top of the Hill Gang grew, he learned of more club members who lived at Brooksby.

"I started to think that Brooksby might be a good move for me," says Ray. "I liked the on-site amenities, particularly the swimming pool, and the idea of having social opportunities right on campus. Plus, the real estate market was hot, so I knew it was a good time to sell my condo."

Ray listed his Reading condo with a real estate agent recommended by Brooksby Personal Moving Consultant Laurie Phillips, who offers complimentary coordination of moving resources for prospective residents.

"I had four offers in six days," says Ray, who moved to Brooksby in November 2017 and sold his condo after he was settled in his large one-bedroom Ellicott-style apartment.

Lifestyle for active adults

Now that he's lived at Brooksby for a year, Ray says the community is a good fit for him.

"There are systems of support built at Brooksby that I didn't have in my condo," he says. "The staff is accommodating and willing to help in any way they can. I don't have to worry about maintenance or meals. Everything I need is right here on campus."

Ray's active lifestyle continues, as he's currently the downhill skiing coordinator for the Top of the Hill Gang, and plans to lead a ski trip to Killington, Vt., next month. At Brooksby, Ray's ski gear fits nicely into a closet in his apartment, and the community has space allocated for residents' bicycles.

"This lifestyle suits me," he says. "I have the freedom to lock my door and go, and when I head home, I know I'm coming back to a safe, welcoming environment."