BLUE POINT, NY – Gabby Petito looked to the right and smiled when her photo was taken in front of a pair of angel wings painted on a mural. She smiled and posed for the shot, unsure that it would become one of her last photographs, and an icon since her death.
The 22-year-old Long Island native was just an artist living her best life.
âIt’s a very artistic, creative and free spirit,â her mother, Nichole Schmidt of Blue Point, told Patch in a previous interview.
She loved to live.
âShe just wanted to hit the road and go,â Schmidt said. “She wanted to see and do everything.”
Schmidt described Petito as having a flair for art that led her to express herself with tattoos and a belly button piercing.
She was “just one of those fun kids,” Schmidt added.
Petito disappeared on a road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, and was found dead in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, last Sunday. His death was deemed a homicide, but the cause of death is pending with the coroner’s office, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.
Members of the Blue Point community plan to honor Petito’s memory by lighting candles at the end of their aisles as part of “Light the Night for Gabby Petito” Friday at 7pm, with some hoping the event will spread. across the island, as well as the nation. On Saturday there will be a memorial, “Butterfly Wings to Heaven For Gabby”, in North Port, Florida, which will include a butterfly release.
Family and friends will gather to remember Petito on Sunday at a public memorial service in Moloney Family Funeral Home at Holbrook on Long Island from noon to 5 p.m.
Jennifer McNamara, a family friend who had known Petito since moving to Blue Point in 2003, organized a group of volunteers who place turquoise ribbons on trees to remember her throughout the hamlet. Petito was the babysitter for McNamara’s son, Jack, for a few years, and he “still thinks of her very lovingly,” she said.
With Petito, there were no rules.
âShe walked in with a smile on her face and she was fun,â McNamara said. “She was just such a free spirit.”
Petito didn’t look like anyone.
“She wanted to live her dreams, and it showed in the way she took care of my son, who is also a very free spirit, and I think that’s why he turned to her so much. she said, adding that she was incredibly artistic, and also creative.
Superintendent Timothy Hearney remembered Petito, a 2017 graduate of Bayport-Blue Point High School, as a “wonderful artist and anyone who had the pleasure of working with her saw how likeable she was. and authentic “.
“She will be sadly missed by all who knew her, and the district offers its deepest condolences to her family and friends,” he said in a statement, adding that “the whole” of the school community in Bayport-Blue Point mourned the loss of such an unforgettable person. “
He said it was “with a heavy heart” that the school community learned of “the heartbreaking end of the research”.
Petito is remembered in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she worked as a hostess and kitchen helper at Smoke on the Water, for over a year from September 2017 to January 2019 before moving to Florida, ABC 11 reported. Her friends there remembered her as a “shining soul, a shining light,” the outlet reported.
âShe was always happy, always had a smile on her face trying to bring people with her,â the restaurant’s general manager told the store. “She was a good soul, a good spirit and touched so many lives. That’s why we want to be remembered.”
Two years ago, Petito moved from Long Island to Florida with Laundrie.
She spent the last year working as a pharmacy technician and saved her money so she could hit the road and fulfill her teenage dream of visiting the national parks system, Schmidt said.
Petito had documented the road trip in “Van Life: Beginning our Van Life Journey” on a YouTube channel called Nomadic Statik, as well as its Instagram page. In her latest Instagram post, she smiled while holding a small pumpkin outside “The Monarch” in Ogden, Utah, captioning the August 25 photo, “Happy Halloween.”
At that time, she had planned to end her trip by visiting a friend in Oregon around Halloween.
McNamara remembered Petito as a “beautiful soul” who always had a smile on his face.
“I’ve never seen her without a smile,” she said. “We see her in these videosâ¦ that’s really who she was. She was just this incredibly dynamic and happy person.”
Family spokesman Rick Stafford said “Instead of flowers, Gabby’s family is asking for donations from the future Gabby Petito Foundation.” Donations can be made electronically at www.Johnnymacfoundation.com