On Sunday, as hundreds of mourners attended a service at a funeral home for Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman whose death prompted coverage across the world, her father told the audience, “If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it. Now.”
Joe Petito told the gathering at Moloney Holbrook Funeral Home:
I don’t want you guys to be sad. Gabby didn’t live that way. That wasn’t her way. … If you knew Gabby, she was always a pretty happy girl. People would gravitate to her; her nature was always to smile and treat everybody kind. She always made people feel welcome. … She always treated people with respect; it really didn’t matter. … She cared. People would always come up to her and just sit and talk; it would take forever to get her out of it. It’s wild to see what is happening.
You know, growing up, she always had those blue eyes, those ridiculous blue eyes. You couldn’t keep her in trouble; you would ground her and she’d start crying, and I’d fold. When I see a lady crying, I fold. If a guy cries, I don’t care. (laughter) She’d be crying, she actually would just do that on purpose just so I’d take her off grounding. It worked. She always wanted to go out and do stuff, whether it was scuba diving with my uncle, or myself or hiking the Appalachian trail, surfing sand dunes in Colorado. … She had some wild experiences that I could only wish that I could experience. …
I want you to take a look at these pictures, and I want you to be inspired by Gabby. That’s what we’re looking for; that’s something that I want to see. If there’s a trip you guys want to take, take it. Now. Do it now while you have the time. If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it. Now.
Petito’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt, a former local fire chief, referencing the roughly 200 firefighters in attendance, added, “You all got to see our extended family, the firehouse family, come through here. We do funerals, unfortunately, and we’re good at it. Throughout my career, I’ve written eulogies, planned these funerals; not one of them could have prepared me for this moment. My grandmother told me — she’s going to be 100 next month, when we buried my mom earlier this year, parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. That’s not how life is supposed to work. But it is an unfortunate reality.”
“Gabby, at 22 years old, helped teach me that you can always make money, but you can’t make up for lost time. Gabby loved life and lived her life every single day. … She is an example for all of us to live life, to enjoy every moment in this beautiful world that she did. Love and give love like she did,” he said.
A prayer card was passed out at the service that stated:
Do not grieve for me for I am free. I am traveling a path the Lord has taken me. Be not burdened with times of sorrow. I wish for you the sunshine of tomorrow. Perhaps my time seemed too brief. Do not lengthen it with undue grief. Lift up your hearts and share with me the memories that will always be.
On July 2, Gabby Petito left New York with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. They took a road trip to Colorado and Utah. On August 12, a park ranger from Utah’s Arches National Park warned Gabby Petito that her relationship with her fiancé Brian Laundrie appeared “toxic” and urged her to “find another path.”
Melissa Hulls, who had responded to a domestic disturbance call, said, “I was probably more candid with her than I should’ve been. I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life. … She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida.”
The last time Petito was seen alive was on August 27 at a Jackson Hole, Wyoming restaurant. On August 30, a text was sent from her phone: “No service in Yosemite.” On September 19 human remains matching her description were found at Spread Creek campground. The FBI confirmed that the body was hers and they ruled the cause of death to be a homicide.