About 10 a.m. Sunday that was all taken from him.
He was one of eight people killed at Pinelake Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Carthage.
“He just laid down his life to protect the residents and employees there,” said his sister Frances Green of Rockingham to The New York Times. “Unfortunately he lost his life. But he was a hero.”
Carthage police have arrested Robert Stewart, 45, of Moore County and charged him with eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shootings.
All seven other victims were elderly patients of the facility ranging in ages from 78 to 98.
Green said her brother was about to take an exam with the N.C. Board of Nursing to become a licensed registered nurse. He was a licensed practical nurse.
Avant was engaged to be married to another member of the staff at the facility, she said, believed to have been planned this summer.
“He was a very giving person,” Green said of her brother. “He would have given you the shirt off his back. He couldn’t have picked a better profession.”
Avant’s father, Jerry W. Avant of Rockingham, Green and other relatives and friends gathered Monday at the home of Evelyn Avant on Ardsley Road, Avant’s paternal grandmother.
He said his son was a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. He graduated from Richmond Senior High School in 1988 and attended both Richmond and Sandhills community colleges.
His interest then was in electronic technology.
His sister recalled that Avant “loved to fiddle with things, take them apart and put them back together.”
Avant said he son was involved in aircraft electronics at several Coast Guard bases, the last one being Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
When he left the Coast Guard, Green said her brother began to lean toward the medical field. “He loved people,” she said, “and wished he had gotten into the medical field in the beginning.”
One news report quoted Helen Olive, a resident of the Pinelake Center, as saying Avant was bright and friendly — an expert on every topic and quick to talk and joke with the residents in his care.
“Everyone loved him,” she said. “We called him doctor, lawyer. He knew everything.”
Avant recalled his son as being studious as a young man.
Funeral arrangements for Jerry Avant are incomplete and will be arranged by Russell-Marks Funeral Home.
Roy Cooper, N.C. Attorney General, said that 131 North Carolinians lost their lives in domestic violence murders in 2008. There were three in Richmond County.
Contact reporter Tom MacCallum at 997-3111, ext. 15; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.