Her friends in rural Loudoun County remember Barbara Evans-Smith for her immaculate horse barn and well-tended gardens, for her Dalmatians and neat gray hair.

But they also remember Evans-Smith, the wife of American University's director of Foreign Area Studies, for her energy. "She was not a stay-at-home type," said neighbor Katharine Kingsley. "She was just very warm and outgoing, and she had a great twinkle, you know."

Evans-Smith, who was in her early 60s, was found slain about 11:30 a.m. Monday in her house at Crooked Run Farm near Hamilton. The suspected cause of death is strangulation, according to Loudoun County Medical Examiner George T. Hocker. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

The County Sheriff's Department provided few details yesterday about the death, saying the case remains under investigation. Friends said they believed Evans-Smith's husband, William, a retired Army colonel known to friends as "Bull," was at American University in Washington when his wife's body was discovered.

"This tragedy has had us all upset since we heard about it," said Arlene Janney, the clerk in charge of the nearby Lincoln Post Office, who has known Evans-Smith for years.

"We all are wondering 'What in the world?' " said neighbor Kingsley. "The whole thing was just a violation of her essence."

The Evans-Smiths have lived in Loudoun since the 1960s, friends say, but moved only a few years ago to the $367,000 farm off Virginia Rte. 725, near Rte. 704.

The brick and fieldstone house, hidden from the main dirt road, overlooks 70 acres of fenced pasture, woods and Crooked Run Creek. It was in one of the bedrooms that Evans-Smith's body was found, clothed in a nightgown and bathrobe.

Friends said she and her husband devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to helping establish the 10,000-acre Goose Creek Historic District, where their Crooked Run Farm is located.

Evans-Smith also was chairman for several years of a local historic district review committee, was a president of the Garden Study Club of Loudoun, was treasurer-elect of the Ketoctin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and was a longtime supporter of Keep Loudoun Beautiful, an environmental group.

Although her husband fox-hunted, and the couple always seemed to have three or four horses around, Evans-Smith had not ridden in several years, the friends said.

"I saw them Sunday afternoon at the Oatlands point-to-point race, and talked to them for about 10 minutes," said B. Powell Harrison Jr., a longtime friend. "They both looked absolutely wonderful. Barbara had never looked better in her life. I told her that. She looked like a million dollars."