By Jennifer Corr
Sabrina Navaretta, a graduate of Syosset High School from Woodbury, was known for her smile.
“She was such a good kid, a student,” said Sabrina’s father John Navaretta. “During her teenage years, we had a great relationship. Never had a problem with her. Never had to ask her, ‘did you do your homework?’ She was very disciplined. She cared about other people. She enjoyed hanging around with me and Mara [Sabrina’s mother and the founder of Homes By Mara Realty.] She loved her family.”
Every teacher, Mara Navaretta said, told her and John the same thing: “She would walk into the classroom, and no matter what, whether it was the first period of the day, Sabrina always brought a radiance about her. She always smiled and was alert. She was always willing to participate in class.”
Sabrina was attending Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware. Earning a scholarship at the university, Sabrina, already licensed, had a goal of working in real estate at Homes By Mara upon graduating.
Tragically, she died in a car accident near the campus on April 28 at just 19 years old.
“All of us at the University are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this promising young woman,” said Adam Cantley, dean of students and assistant vice president for student support and advocacy. “She touched the lives of so many during her first year here at Delaware, and her positive attitude and her generous heart will truly be missed.”
But even in her short 19 years, Sabrina made a huge impact on the people around her.
“We always thought, like every parent, that Sabrina was special and… that she was just a good kid, but we didn’t realize the extension into the community and everyone she touched, whether it was briefly, or friends or parents of friends,” John said. “Everyone just had nothing but the same thing to say about her infectious smile and overall kindness. I see that she touched a lot of people, and made people feel special and better.”
Carly Cordano wrote in an online memorial for Sabrina that she had been her camp counselor when she was younger.
“While I was there to make sure she had fun, she had much more of an impact on my life than I can explain,” Cordano wrote. “She truly was a camper I’d remember forever. She showed me unwavering kindness, willingness to try new things and acceptance of all. Sabrina is forever part of the reason I pursued a career with kids.”
Sabrina also took the time to volunteer as an advocate for kids with autism and with dog rescue groups and environmental clean ups on local beaches. John Navaretta said he could remember when there was a fire in the community, he and Sabrina, who was around 15 at the time, spent their free time sorting clothes that were donated to Homes By Mara. The clothes would be going to families who lost their homes. “Here she is, she just enjoyed helping the community,” John said. “That was her thing.”
And again, Sabrina loved her family.
“We have two other kids, who are older, and the three of them got along real well, but they don’t live here so now it was always me, Mara and Sabrina,” John Navaretta said. “We were like the three buddies. She would enjoy going out to dinner with us, just barbecuing or hanging out in the house with us.”
While in college, Sabrina would take the Amtrak home as often as she could, so that she’d never miss out on any family gathering or even family dinners.
“She didn’t want to miss out on anything with her cousins, aunts and uncles,” Mara said. “That was just her. She loved family so much.”
Sabrina was also a good friend.
Mara said that she was one of those rare people who didn’t like drama and stayed out of any negativity. She could always find the good in people.
“Sabrina was the most happy, kind, loving person I knew,” wrote Melody Ashton on the online memorial. “She was gentle with her words and such a genuine human being. I met Sabrina while working at the restaurant Buteras in Woodbury. I remember talking with her upon her arrival. She was funny, sweet, smiley, and so unbelievably beautiful.”
On June 13, Sabrina’s friends gathered at the Town of Oyster Bay boat ramp at Teddy Roosevelt Beach to release rose petals into the water in her memory. They also wrote memories of Sabrina on for the family to read. The paper with the memories can be buried, and seeds inside of it will grow into flowers.
It was a fitting memorial for Sabrina as she loved being on the water, and protecting the water. She and her sister Nicolle would often pick up any bottles they found while they were out jet skiing. And among Sabrina’s favorite activities was hanging out on her dad’s boat.
“We have a 44-foot Viking Sport Fisherman,” John said. “And she literally was my first mate. And we have shirts made up. Mara’s my admiral, I’m the captain and she was the first mate. She could drive that boat better than most people. And she was an avid jet skier… She would take the jet ski down to the boat ramp and meet us out on the water. She loved to fish. She just loved the water.”
John and Mara, with their children Nicolle and Andrew, established the Sabrina Navaretta Scholarship Fund to give high school graduating seniors who are in need of financial assistance the ability to achieve their goals.
Andrew Fazzolari was the first recipient of the scholarship award. The scholarship was $5,000, but the Navarettas are hoping to give more to recipients in the future.
“When we presented the award, it was very emotional,” John said. “Everybody was crying.”
“He worked [in the restaurant industry,] Sabrina worked at Butera’s,” Mara said when describing why they picked Andrew as the recipient. “He worked some pretty long hours. We were impressed. He also spent a lot of time with his family, which really tugged at our heart strings because Sabrina loved family.”
Andrew, like Sabrina, also took a real estate course that John and Mara teach at the school one day a year.
“Andrew Fazzolari, coincidently, we didn’t even remember, had come over and shook our hands,” Mara said.
The community supported the decision of choosing Andrew, with many saying that he was an “excellent choice.”
The criteria to win the scholarship is similar to how Sabrina lived her life: good grades, an interest in business, participation in a sport, a demonstration of kindness and a history of serving the community.
Applicants of the scholarship have to write a 500-word essay of what their typical weekend looks like.
“We just wanted to see their character,” Mara said. “Do they play games? Are they family oriented? Do they look forward to seeing their grandparents and their cousins?”
Picking the right person to receive the scholarship is important, because it also serves as a message.
“Live your life as our daughter did,” John said as he described the message of the scholarship. “From what the community is telling us, we raised one hell of a kid.”
To support the Sabrina Navaretta Scholarship Fund, visit sabnavscholarship.org.