Town alderman Jerry Evans passed away on Thursday at the age of 55, due to complications relating to a respiratory illness. His passing was unexpected, according to town officials.
Over a year ago, Evans was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring or thickening of the lungs that causes difficulty breathing. "He had a very substantial problem with his lungs," said Franklin Mayor Joe Collins. "It had been going on for a while.
Evans checked into Angel Medical Center the previous day with an apparent infection that left him dehydrated, Collins explained.
"I was totally stunned when I got the call," said town alderman Joyce Handley. "The thought never occurred to me that he was so ill that he was going to pass away."
According to his colleagues, Evans had been fighting the illness for more than a year and found it necessary to miss a few town board meetings in recent months as his health declined. He was able to attend the first meeting of 2011, but he had to miss the winter retreat and February town board meeting.
Evans' peers on the Franklin Town Board say that he will be missed along with the input that he brought to the board.
"In his heart he really loved to have the opportunity to be part of the town board and he represented the citizens of Franklin the best that he could," remarked Collins, who grew up with Evans in Franklin. The two were even neighbors on Crestview Heights for several years in the early 90's.
"Jerry brought a diversity to the board that was welcomed and helpful," Collins continued. "He took pride in the fact that he was an alderman. He's someone that has left a good legacy with the town and he will be missed."
Although Alderman Joyce Handley said that she and Evans did not always agree on issues, they were able to maintain civility and friendship. "He was there for the little guy. He was always for the taxpayers," she said. "He didn't want changes made that were going to hurt the people who had voted for him."
Handley has worked with Evans since she was elected nearly four years ago.
She said that Evans helped to acquaint her with the ins and outs of town politics. "He was always willing to take time to answer my questions. I'm gonna miss him. He was too young," she said.
A memorial service will be held for Evans at the Bryant Funeral Home chapel at 1 p.m. A special viewing for Evans' friends will be held on Sunday from 6-8 p.m.