Abbigail Lillian Pittarelli was born on July 22, 1996 at St. Michael' hospital in Toronto, Ontario. Her birth weight was a whopping 6lbs 7oz; by six months she was 26 lbs and her determination was already being displayed..
Abbi was the first grandchild. She was born on her great grandmother Dinah (Anne) Shewchuk's 75th birthday. She was the oldest and the only girl in her family of four siblings. She was mother hen to her three brothers: Simon, August ad Sebastian and she was always prepared to share her opinions with them on what they should do and how they should do it.
Her maternal grandmother, known as Gramma Brenda, used to call her, "My 2 b's Abbigail."
When Abbi was younger, she attended bible camps and learned about the power of God's grace. As she grew up, attending church and living life as a committed Christian doing God's will was important to her. By grade 8 she would walk to St. James United in Peterborough on days the family couldn't attend.
Abbi's parents separated when she was 12. Shortly after, her mother enrolled her and Simon in Cadets to provide an environment that could help them be focused on a cause greater than themselves. As a cadet, Abbi learned: commitment, discipline, to play the bag pipes and fly a plane. It was here, Abbi realized, the key to achieving her goals of the future was joining the military.
Abbigail always studied hard and her commitment to those studies allowed her to take 40 days off school to travel South America with her Aunt Mags. There she learned to pack lightly, be a champ at food poisoning, haggle, and eat bugs.
During grade 11, Abbi, her mom, Tanya and step-father Shane Cowbrough moved to Nova Scotia and Abbi's life changed.
Abbi age 3 with a red rose bud from her nonna's funeral
Abbigail from a young age was a caring individual. A determined child who grew into a determined young woman. A lover of animals and babies. A person who did not want to be beholden to anyone. From the age of 14, she had dreams for her future and set goals to accomplish them. Her primary goal, a good, well paying job that would enable her to achieve her dreams of owning a house and travelling the world.
She was determined to go to Royal Military College ("RMC") and join the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF") as an Engineering Officer.
She played in three Pipes and Drums bands. She started with the Hastings Prince Edward Regiment in Peterborough for four years. She then joined the Twelve Wing Pipes and Drums and also joined the Union Fire Hall Pipes and Drums in Halifax. With these bands she played numerous Highland Games competitions. They traveled to many places including Boston to compete. Abbi also taught Pipes in Newfoundland for a time.
In 2012, Abbigail achieved her first goal towards her dream, she joined RMC. And then her second goal was achieved she entered CAF in 2016. Her first childhood dream to enter the military as on officer accomplished.
Abbigail had several deployments: Bahamas, Vancouver, Scotland and the Mediterranean. It was here that tragedy struck.
On April 29, 2020 the helicopter Abbigail was travelling in crashed into the Ionian Sea. Abbigail along with 5 fellow officers died. She was 23.
Abbigail, left her estate to her mother with instructions to disburse of the funds as she wished. Wanting to honour Abbigail's bravery, commitment, determination and service to her country and a greater cause has been the cornerstone of the setup for this foundation.
Abbigail's RMC Graduation picture
After the move to Nova Scotia, Abbigail drew closer to her community and her God.
When she attended RMC she bought a motorcycle to commute home, travel to see family in the greater Toronto area and visit friends in Ottawa and Quebec. After being accepted as an officer in the military she joined the NATO Vetran's and attended their Saturday morning breakfasts.
On Sundays, Abbi would make her way to church to draw closer to her God and the people within her congregation. She acted as a nursery caregiver during service from time to time.
It was her love of Nova Scotia, the community and the people that prompted her to play her bagpipes publicly for the last time. It was following the deadly shooting in Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19, Abbi was recorded playing Amazing Grace on her bagpipes, standing on the deck of HMCS Fredericton, as a tribute to the 22 victims. On Facebook, Abbi said, "You can travel the world, and still never meet anyone like an East Coaster. Glad to be taken in by them, for I'd have it no other way. To everyone back home, thinking of you #NSstrong."
Abbigail loved life and babies. She was a foodie. She loved to travel and one of her favourite places on earth was Walt Disney World.
Abbi made an effort to return to Disney every other year. And although she was not a lover of princesses; when she watched Brave she self-identified with Merida. So on her next visit to Disney, she made her mother wait 3 hours in line for Merida to appear at a character meet and great, she was 21 at the time.
Abbigail participated in many tattoos as a member of different pipes and drums organizations. She performed in the Edinburgh Pipes and Drums World Competition in the summer of 2019. Shearwater Pipes and Drums won 10th place. It was a highlight of her life, one of her favourite memories.
In the spring of 2019, Abbigail and her mother traveled across Europe for 15 days, seeing and experiencing sites, such as: the Cadbury Farm, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. After they visited Paris, they landed in Frankfurt to learn of the burning of Notre Dame. They were able to see Croatia, Amsterdam and visited family in Spain.
In October 2019, Abbigail realized her dream of buying her house. She purchased a home and moved in just weeks before her deployment to the Mediterranean. She wanted to become an active member of her neighbourhood and community. Also, as a first time home owner she keen to explore new interests of decorating and gardening.
Abbi's fun side
Abbigail was sent on deployment to participate in a NATO exercise aboard the HMCS Fredericton ("Freddy") in the Mediterranean. She left Canada in January 2020. During this exercise the Freddy docked and Abbi was able to take in some of the sights and sounds of Italy.
Shortly after returning to ship, news outlets across the world started to communicate the coronavirus disease, known as Covid-19, was spreading globally. One of the first and hardest hit countries was Italy. In February, the Canadian military made a decision to ask those on deployment if they would remain onboard ship to continue their service and participate in military maneuvers until July.
During this deployment Abbi participated in a helicopter maneuver. The helicopter was on a "fly by" of the Freddy when tragedy struck. The helicopter Abbigail was in crashed into the Ionian Sea. She along with 5 fellow officers perished during their final approach to the Freddy.
On April 29, 2020, Abbigail's next of kin were informed of her death and the recovery of her body from the sea and that search efforts were underway for the 5 officers who were with her in the helicopter when it crashed.
In the morning, Canada awoke to the news, as Abbi's family faced their grief; while the families of the 5 missing officers waited for word on the outcome of the search. Abbigail's grandmother, Brenda Shewchuk was the family spokesperson; her first interview was with Rosemary Barton, CBC News,
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 was a challenging day. Abbigail was repatriated home to Canada. During the drive to Trenton Air Force Base, Abbi's brother, Simon Pittarelli shared his thoughts of Abbi. Meanwhile, due to Covid concerns, Abbi's maternal grandparents remained in Toronto and Brenda held her last interview with CTV News' Tracey Tong.
Finally, on May 11, 2020, Abbigail returned home to Nova Scotia. The motorcade (including the veterans she shared Saturday mornings with) escorted her from the plane along the Highway of Heros to the funerall home. Abbi is survived by: her mother, Tanya Cowbrough; her father Pino Pittarelli and brothers Simon, August and Sebastian.
Abbigail being repatriated home to Canada