Hundreds gathered inside Fremont United Methodist Church Saturday to remember the life and legacy of former Fremont Mayor and lifelong farmer Andy Evans.
The service, which drew at least 300 people, led to many sitting in an overflow room inside the fellowship hall as well as the church nursery, where the service was broadcast live.
For many, it was a time to pay their final respect to a man remembered for his charismatic smile, generous heart and interest in making Fremont a stronger community.
Before the start of the service, gospel hymns could be heard coming from the piano inside the sanctuary, as people were directed to their seats.
Then, the Rev. James Koo, Fremont United Methodist Church pastor, asked everyone to stand as the Evans family made their way inside the church.
Nancy Evans, wife of the late Andy Evans, walked in with her two daughters, Rachel and Courtney Evans, by her side, along with other family members.
Koo, at times, fought back tears as he opened the service.
"We come together in grief accepting our human loss," Koo said. "In pain, we find comfort in sorrow. We find hope. We know that it is hard to face something we don't want, but we lift this sorrow up to you."
After the prayer, the congregation stood and sang "I Come to the Garden Alone."
Koo said he learned about Evans' death while in Korea and, much like everyone else, was heartbroken.
One week ago, Evans was found shot to death at his home. The Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the State Bureau of Investigation are actively investigating the death as a homicide. No arrest has been made.
Evans' death left many in the small rural Wayne County town in shock and grief stricken. Many have reflected on what Evans meant to them personally and the town as a whole.
"I could not understand it, and I said to myself, 'Why?' Koo said. "But, I know that God is good and he thinks beyond what we think."
Koo said it remains difficult to grasp the range of emotions from the tragedy.
He also said that Evans remains "in our hearts" and "his legacy remains with us."
"We that our God is a great loving God who makes no mistake," Koo said.
The Rev. Rudy West, a childhood friend of Evans, also spoke during the service.
West shared how he visited Evans at home when he was sick with polio. As West spoke, he took a few long pauses as he was overcome with emotion.
"I don't think we could have been any closer, even if we were brothers," he said. West was also employed by Evans and worked on the farm.
"I know that Andy is looking down on us with that great big smile that over the years each of us grew so found of," West said.
After the service, Abby Poole, a friend of the family, said she has known the Evans family for 15 years.
"Both of his daughters baby sat my children," Poole said. "It is evidence by the number of people who have gathered here today what the loss means for this community."
The Rev. Dave Varnell, pastor of Crosspointe Baptist Church, said that Evans was super kind and always helped the Crosspointe Church, in any way he could.
"Losing Andy, is a great loss to this community," Varnell said. "It leaves a hole that will never be filled."
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 as mayor from 1998 to 2003, and in countless other 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.