South Florida neighbors remember Monkees lead singer Davy Jones as friend, community supporter

INDIANTOWN, Fla. - The death of former Monkees lead singer Davy Jones surprised the Indiantown community he's called home and has helped for more than 20 years.

Just last month, Jones participated in his annual fundraising event for the Indiantown Education Coalition, "A Groovy Night on The Ranch." In the last eight years, he helped raise more than $250,000 to support scholarships for local students and grants.

Remembering Davy Jones photo gallery:  http://tinyurl.com/7rrwjpp

At the Jan. 20 event, Jones signed autographs, sang and told stories about his career. People who saw him that day at Indian River State College , and during the following weeks saw the Jones they had come to know, the good neighbor and joke teller.

Jones, 66, died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack while visiting his 13 horses at a horse ranch in Indiantown. The Martin County Sheriff's Office released a statement that the singer complained about not feeling well and having trouble breathing before Fire Rescue took him to Martin Health Systems in Stuart, where he was pronounced dead.

An avid horse enthusiast, Jones had been an Indiantown resident since the 1980s. His neighbors could see him working in his yard or taking care of his horses as he did when he aspired to become a jockey during his youth in Manchester, England.

"He was just down to earth. He talked about his kids and grandkids," said Indiantown Education Coalition community liaison Debbie Banta.

Banta said eight years ago she was looking for someone "semi-famous" to endorse the organization's first fundraiser when one of her colleagues said he knew someone who worked with Jones' horses. One day, while she was grocery-shopping, she received a phone call.

"I heard this British voice saying, 'This is Davy Jones,'" Banta said. She thought it was a prank.

The first time he participated in the fundraiser, he stayed and helped clean up after the event, she said. He sang "Daydream Believer" at every "Groovy Night."

In a 2006 interview to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, Jones said he liked that Indiantown locals got used to seeing him at restaurants and grocery stores. He said his routine consisted of waking up every morning at 6 to exercise and groom his horses, who used to race at Florida tracks.

At the time, he lived alone with his horses, although his four grown daughters would visit often. That changed when he married Spanish TV personality and flamenco dancer Jessica Pacheco in 2009.

Jones was at The Lyric Theatre a week before he died to see a performance by Pacheco's group, Flamenco Express.

"He looked great when I saw him," Lyric Executive Director John Loesser said. He met Jones almost 50 years ago at a horse track in New York. At the time, the singer was performing in the Broadway musical "Oliver!" That brought him to the U.S. The two reconnected in Stuart about 15 years ago and Jones performed at the theater many times. Loesser said he didn't know if Jones had any health issues, but that he seemed like an active person.

Jones was working on a musical piece, Loesser said. Although he was still brainstorming the concept, the plot was about a working-class boy who would do anything to be on stage, a reference to how Jones got into show business.

"He loved musical theater. He wanted to go back to his roots," Loesser said.

Jones said in 2006 he wished he had bought The Lyric Theatre. He also would have liked to own a restaurant with a stage in downtown Stuart, where he could be seen dining with his wife.

Jones grew up in Manchester, England. At age 11, he answered an advertisement looking for teenagers interested in working on TV and got a role in a BBC soap opera called "Coronation Street."

His real dream was to become a jockey, but even his horse trainer, Basil Foster, saw his talent and encouraged him to make a living on stage. Foster today is retired in Martin County.

Jones' first big role was the Artful Dodger in the London production of "Oliver!," a British musical based on the book "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens. A year later, he toured the U.S. with the production and was nominated for a Tony Award.

Jones and The Monkees created hits such as "I'm a Believer" and "Daydream Believer" but were always fighting for more creative freedom to produce and create their own music. The tensions between the cast and producers caused the TV show to be canceled in 1968 and the group parted ways with occasional reunions in the following decades. Jones has said that he and the other Monkees did not keep in touch.

Jones continued acting and made appearances in productions of "Oliver!" and on the TV show "The Brady Bunch." He also continued racing, breeding horses and performing his music across the country and on the Treasure Coast.

When

Jones learned a group of nuns from Hope Rural School, a private school that educates children of migrant workers in Indiantown, lived across the street from his house, he decided to pay them a visit. He regularly stopped by the house to sing to the nuns and to share stories and jokes.

"(The jokes) weren't always politically correct," Sister Mary Dooley said, laughing.

The last time she saw him he was cleaning his yard, as usual.

"You know when you have a good neighbor you are comfortable with? That's what he was to us," Dooley said.

DAVY JONES BIO

The Monkees, led by frontman Davy Jones, were the first teen heartthrobs who paved the way for a lineage of fabricated boy bands.

The band was formed in 1966 as a Beatles knock-off for a TV show and gathered what Jones called in an interview four strangers with some musical talent.

Jones, an Indiantown resident since the 1980s, died Wednesday morning of an apparent heart attack at a horse ranch. He was 66.

Jones grew up in Manchester, England. At age 11, he answered an advertisement looking for teenagers interested in working on TV and got a role in a BBC soap opera called "Coronation Street."

His real dream was to become a jockey, but even his horse trainer, Basil Foster, saw his talent and encouraged him to make a living on stage. Foster today is retired in Martin County.

Jones' first big role was the Artful Dodger in the London production of "Oliver!," a British musical based on the book "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens. A year later, he toured the U.S. with the production and was nominated for a Tony Award.

Jones and The Monkees created hits such as "I'm a Believer" and "Daydream Believer" but were always fighting for more creative freedom to produce and create their own music. The tensions between the cast and producers caused the TV show to be canceled in 1968 and the group parted ways with occasional reunions in the following decades. Jones has said that he and the other Monkees did not keep in touch.

Jones continued acting and made appearances in productions of "Oliver!" and on the TV show "The Brady Bunch." He also continued racing, breeding horses and performing his music across the country and on the Treasure Coast.

Source: Staff reports, Associated Press

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