HOLBROOK, N.Y. — Hundreds of mourners on Long Island stood in a line that wrapped around the block to attend a public memorial service for Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito on Sunday.
People were able to pay their respects between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. at Moloney’s Funeral Home in Holbrook. A live stream of the service provided by the funeral home included eulogies from Petito’s father and stepfather.
Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, remembered his beloved daughter as an adventurous spirit who was the light of his life.
“I want you to take a look at these pictures and I want you to be inspired by them … If there’s a trip you want to take, take it. Now. Do it now while you’ve got the time. If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now,” he said. “Gabby is the most amazing person I’ve ever met … I’m asking you guys to be inspired by the way she treated people, all people … She genuinely loved people … When you leave here today, be inspired by what she brought to the table … I couldn’t be more proud, as a father.”
Her stepfather, Jim Schmidt, said Petito helped him realize that you can always make money, but you can’t make up for lost time.
“Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. This is not how this is supposed to work, but it is an unfortunate reality,” he said. “Gabby loved life and lived her life every single day … She is an example for all of us to live by. To enjoy every moment in this beautiful world, as she did. To love and give love to all like she did.”
Schmidt recalled a lyric from the Beatles song, “Let It Be,” which was tattooed on her arm.
“And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree; there will be an answer, let it be,” he said. “It’s OK to mourn for Gabby. It’s OK to feel sorrow and pain, but we want to celebrate her and how she lived her life. We want you to hold onto all those wonderful memories we shared with her because that would be the answer; let it be.”
Alexis Trama, who went to middle school with Petito, attended the service.
“It’s not fair,” Trama said. “Her family deserves to lay her to rest the right way.”
People who’d never met Petito came to pay their respects. Arianna Green traveled to the memorial from New Jersey.
“I just felt personally connected to Gabby,” Green said. “Her love for everything, life, nature, the little things.”
Lexi Ruiz recalled working with Petito at a cafe in nearby Patchogue that Ruiz managed.
“She was always willing to help someone else,” Ruiz said. “She was just such a light. Anywhere she went the room lit up. It’s nice to see so many people come together and support her family.”
PIX11’s Mary Murphy was live outside of the memorial service Sunday morning.
Petito, 22, was born and raised on Long Island. Her family lives in Blue Point.
In lieu of flowers, her family has asked for donations that will go toward a foundation they plan to set up in Petito’s name. Donations can be made online at the https://Johnnymacfoundation.org.
Petito was reported missing by her parents on Sept. 11 after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while she and her fiancé Brian Laundrie, 23, were on a cross-country camping trip out West.
After the missing persons report was filed, police discovered Laundrie had returned to his parents home in North Port, Florida, alone in the van on Sept. 1. He later became a person of interest after he refused to cooperate with investigators.
On Sept. 17, Laundrie’s parents told investigators they had not seen their son since Sept. 14. Police continued to search for him on Sunday, as Petito’s family prepared to lay her to rest.
Petito’s body was found in a remote area of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sept. 19. Her death was deemed a homicide, meaning it was caused by another person. How she was killed was not disclosed by the medical examiner, pending further autopsy results.
Law enforcement officials have since issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie. He allegedly used a debit card and PIN to buy more than $1,000 worth of items between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, according to the indictment.
His family’s attorney noted the warrant is not for Petito’s death.
“While this arrest warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide,” the FBI said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.