‘She was just this bright, shining light:’ Gabby Petito’s former coworkers in Wilmington share their memories

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Gabby Petito’s murder is heartbreaking news for everyone who has followed her story, but it’s especially devastating for those who knew Gabby — and some even lived and worked with her in Wilmington.

“She was just this bright, shining light for everybody,” said Lara Witschen, a manager of Smoke on the Water in Riverlights. “She always wanted to make everybody’s experience around her special. She was always smiling, she was goofy. She always wanted to make everybody else smile right along with her.”

Petito worked at Smoke on the Water in Riverlights from 2017 to 2019, leaving the area around the time her relationship with Brian Laundrie began. One story staff members shared with us was the time she made personalized Christmas gifts for the entire staff.

“Her memories are going to live on forever and these are things that everybody that knew her are going to cherish,” said Witschen. “That’s how Gabby’s going to live on, and her legacy.”

Knowing she’s gone breaks everyone’s hearts, but her loved ones won’t let her be forgotten. Smoke on the Water plans to plant a tree at the restaurant for Gabby, but in the meantime, they have a table reserved in her honor.

“It’s got pictures of Gabby, it’s got flowers,” said Witschen. “She was a flower child. She loved the outdoors, nature, so I think those were very important for her as well.”

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