Elizabeth Fawn Slack Pignatello, 39, of Alexandria, Va., died Sunday, August 7, 2011, in a private airplane crash. Born in Washington, D.C., on October 29, 1971, Elizabeth grew up in Rockford, the daughter of Enid L. Robinson and Robert J. Slack, stepdaughter of Collin Robinson, and sister of the late Erik B. Slack.
Elizabeth lived her life to the fullest by Henry Ford’s motto: “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” Her can-do attitude led to a successful career as an attorney and a fulfilled life as a mother, daughter, sister and friend.
A 1989 graduate of Rockford High School, Elizabeth pursued a B.A. in American culture and history at the University of Michigan, where she served as editor of Michigan Daily and co-chair of the American Culture Society. She graduated magna cum laude in 1993 and returned to her birthplace to attend the Washington College of Law of the American University. There, Elizabeth continued to distinguish herself as editor of Journal of Gender & the Law, student attorney in the Clinical Program and member of Women’s Law Association. After earning her juris doctor in 1996, she was admitted to both the District of Columbia Bar and the Virginia State Bar, and specialized in civil litigation at Ashcraft & Gerel in Washington, D.C. She later joined the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va., as a trademark-examining attorney. In 2008, Elizabeth founded an intellectual property law practice and maintained an active corporate and securities law practice, concentrating on securities regulation and compliance. She was also of counsel at Cameron LLP in Washington, D.C.
While her list of academic and career accomplishments is long, Elizabeth was most proud of her role as mommy to her beautiful daughter, Isabella Firth, 8, and her exuberant son, Anthony “Nino” Robert, 4. She lit up in their presence and always put their needs first, volunteering in her children’s schools, supporting their interests in sports and the arts, and encouraging their Christian faith.
As an active member of Christ Church in Old Town, Alexandria, Elizabeth sought ways to enrich her spirituality. She was an enthusiastic participant in the Christian Family Movement, whose mission is to promote a Christ-centered family life and to improve society through actions of love, service, education and example. That commitment to service led to her involvement in the Junior Friends of the Campagna Center, an Alexandria-based education organization. For seven years, Elizabeth gave of her time, creativity and resources to raise necessary funds to operate critical educational programs for at-risk
In the last year of her life, Elizabeth found true love and happiness with Lieutenant Colonel Shannon D. Beebe, 42, who also died in the plane crash. Shannon, an accomplished pilot, author and recognized security expert on Africa, was a combination of heroism and humility. He and Elizabeth shared a love of travel, reading and art, but mostly, they preferred spending time with close friends and her two young children.
Elizabeth enjoyed a special, close bond with her mother and stepdad who lived nearby, and she was a doting daughter and caregiver to her father who called her the “light of his life.”
Indeed, a bright, shining light, Elizabeth touched many lives and forged strong, enduring friendships—from childhood to college, law school and work, moms’ groups, Junior Friends and, especially, a close-knit group of friends fondly referred to as the “wrecks.” Initially struck by her radiant beauty, people were quickly disarmed by her warm spirit and genuine interest in others. Those lucky enough to call her a dear friend will remember her strength, perseverance, humor, zest for life, and for her devotion to her two young children.
By example, Elizabeth demonstrated the importance of family, friendship and faith, and this is the legacy she leaves for her children and everyone she knew. She will be loved and remembered always.
Survivors include her mother, Enid, and stepfather, Collin, of Gainesville, Va.; father, Robert; daughter, Isabella; son, Nino; and ex-husband Anthony Jay Pignatella, all of Alexandria, Va. She was preceded in death by her brother, Erik. Honorary pallbearers were Tara Bewak-Egresits, Jodi Vanden Berg, Anna Wege, Allison Brooks, Laura Niswander, Bridget Teter and Adrienne Luscombe.
A memorial service and reception was held Monday, August 15 at 11 a.m. at Christ Church in Alexandria, Va. Memorial donations may be made to Isabella F. and Anthony R. Pignatello Scholarship Fund, c/o Collin Robinson, 6582 Alderwood Way, Gainesville, VA 20155, or to Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, National Processing Center, Attn: Honor & Memorial Gifts, PO Box 1245, Albert Lea, MN 56007-9976.