FREMONT -- Floyd Anthony "Andy" Evans, a longtime rural Wayne County farmer and community leader, is remembered as a devoted advocate who invested his time and energy in improving the town of Fremont and beyond.

The tragic death of the former Fremont mayor, who served as an elected official from 1998 to 2003, has left many residents of the town questioning his passing. Many inside the tight-knit, northern Wayne County town of nearly 1,200 residents say his death is a great loss that will be felt for some time.

Evans, 65, was found dead in his home on Evans Farm Road Saturday afternoon, just two days before his birthday.

An autopsy report, performed in N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, confirmed that Evans died of a gunshot wound, said Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce. His death has been ruled a homicide, and deputies, with the assistance of the State Bureau of Investigation, are actively pursuing all leads as part of an active, ongoing investigation.

Town officials, residents and friends of the Evans family have remembered the former mayor in recent days, saying he was a forward-thinking leader who made a difference as an elected official and a farmer.

"He was really a great man and a hardworking man," said Hank Stewart, a pharmacist at the Fremont Pharmacy on Main Street, who graduated with Evans from Charles B. Aycock High School in 1970.

"Andy is going to be missed," Stewart said. "This leaves a big hole in the community."

Mayor Darron Flowers said he was in a Masonic Lodge meeting last week with Evans.

"He had a smile on his face and took part in the meeting, as he always did," Flowers said. "Andy was very interested in the community. When he served as mayor, he took forward-thinking steps. Because of his leadership, the town is where it is today."

Others spoke during the Fremont Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night, also reflecting on the difference Evans made in the lives of others and the town. The meeting included a moment of silence in Evans' memory.

The Rev. Dr. Ira Reynolds, pastor of the First Missionary Baptist Church, said Wednesday that he always had a connection to Evans because they both grew up on a farm.

"I remember sitting with him on the back of a pickup truck, just a few feet away from his farm," Reynolds said. "We both shared stories of life growing up on a farm. The last time I saw him was at the Memorial Day event, where we talked briefly."

Some residents and town leaders have shared little in the days following Evans' death. Many have said they are still trying to understand why anyone would harm a man who did so much to make the community a better place for everyone.

The funeral for Evans will be 4 p.m. Saturday at Fremont United Methodist Church, 106 N. Sycamore St. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the Masonic Home for Children, 600 College St., in Oxford.

Evans was a farmer and served as president of Evans Farms Inc. He leaves behind an agricultural legacy and worked to continue and expand his family tradition of farming.

He served in countless leadership positions with the town of Fremont, Wayne Community College, N.C. Jaycees, Fremont United Methodist Church and Wayne County Young Farmers. He was a member and past master of Masonic Home Lodge No. 613. He served as a member of the Wayne Community College board of trustees from 2007 until 2015.