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Family remembers lost friend following fatal drowning

VALATIE — Family and friends are mourning the loss of 19-year-old Brett Cappelli who drowned Sunday at Stony Kill Creek in Chatham, NY. He slid down a rock-formed slide into the water, a popular summer attraction, but did not re-surface.

14-year-old Christopher Bewick, noticed his friend was in trouble and dove in to try and save him. The young man known as “Crew” called for 9-1-1 and his father Michael Bewick, who drove them there’s help.

“It broke my heart that Crew had to go through that,” said Caileigh Bewick, Christopher’s sister and friend of Cappelli.

While other people were clearing out of the way for others to help, “Crew” took it upon himself to try and save Cappelli. “I think in the moment [Crew] wasn’t feeling the emotions, he was trying to save his friend and he was so brave about that,” said Julianna Bewick, Christopher’s oldest sister and one of Cappelli’s best friends.


“I felt so bad for him, he’s going to be scarred for life from that,” said Dan Bewick, Christopher’s oldest brother.

“Crew” is the youngest of five Bewick siblings and on Wednesday he celebrated his 15th birthday while his siblings sang his praises for his effort just three days before.

Caileigh said, “I feel like most 14-year-olds would’ve called 9-1-1 and left it at that”

“But at the same time I couldn’t picture Crew not doing what he did,” said Julianna.

There are many close friends of the Bewick siblings who become so close to the family, they accept him as one of their own. Cappelli was at the Bewick residence a lot and basically 24/7 in the last few months earning himself the title of Bewick #8.

Cappelli, Julianna and Jessica Ingham called themselves the “three amigos” because they were inseparable. They drove everywhere, went on walks and hikes as well as any adventure they so desired together.

“He was funny as hell and he was my right hand man,” said Julianna.

“Brett, Julianna, and I became so close these past years, it felt so weird doing anything without him,” Ingham said.

Cappelli was very recognizable; he was slender light-skinned African-American teenager who wore a similar outfit every day with a gigantic afro. Everywhere they went, someone always complimented his afro.

In 2016, Cappelli graduated from Ichabod Crane High School and he just finished his first year at Columbia-Greene Community College studying psychology. He never had a plan or an idea with what kind of career he wanted or what he wanted to do with his life however, Julianna recalls, “He told me one time that he wanted to look out for kids who were placed in bad homes.”

Julianna is credited for him doing a lot of the things he did. “If it wasn’t for [Julianna] he wouldn’t have went to college, wouldn’t have applied for jobs, wouldn’t have a bank account and she was teaching him how to drive, she did everything for him,” Caileigh said.

“Julianna and I were just starting to teach Brett how to drive before he died, which I could tell that he was getting excited about possibly getting his license,” said Ingham.

“I went with him to do job applications, school schedules and he was never alone and he would never do that stuff alone, he always needed that little push because he wasn’t a people person. He didn’t like people, he made fun of everyone,” Julianna said “I just wanted to see him succeed.”

In high school, Cappelli scored one of the highest scores in the state for the Global History Regents, the same regents many students hold disdain for. “He was the smartest person I’ve ever met, he knew something about everything,” said Julianna.

Whether he was rating Caileigh or Julianna’s selfie’s honestly on a scale of 1-10 or insulting random people walking down the street, he was always there and always knew what to say.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing
Caileigh(Left) and Cappelli(Right) before prom. Photo: provided.

“He would answer his phone almost any time of the day to talk if you needed him,” Ingham said “He would always tell you his honest opinion if you asked for it and even sometimes if you didn’t ask.”

“He didn’t have life experiences with a lot of things but you could ask him for advice about anything and he would give the best answer,” Julianna said.

Friends of Cappelli’s would want you to know that he loved all animals, Captain Crunch cereal, loved watching Family Guy, SpongeBob and the Simpsons, has a million views on a YouTube video that he made, loved playing his Nintendo DS, Pokemon, KFC, Popeye’s, Burger King and twirling his afro.

Cappelli was also transgender and was comfortable telling the people in his life that. He had womanly features and was proud of that. But never fully felt accepted. “He wasn’t close to his family because he didn’t think they would accept him, but they definitely did,” said Julianna “I went and talked to his family today and they were accepting of him but I think Brett just never felt that”

“He said he wanted to be a girl but you would never know it, he chilled with the guys like he was a guy,” Caileigh said.

“Brett is the reason I changed my views on gay people,” said Dan “I’m more pro-gay rights now than I was before I met him.”

Dan would even take it a step further to honor his lost family friend, “I plan on wearing a dress to the wake.”

Everyone who knew Cappelli remembers him for one reason or another, maybe it’s his Michael Jackson impression, his prank calls or his facial expressions however, pieces of his afro were given out to take with them wherever they go.

“You can hear his voice in your head all the time,” Caileigh said.

Cappelli is survived by his mother Jo-Ann and father Brett Cappelli, younger brother Brendan and his paternal grandparents Jane and Roch Cappelli. Calling hours are at Richards Funeral Home, 28 North Vernon Street, Athens, NY 12015, on Saturday, June 17 from 3:00-7:00 p.m.

Ingham said, “There’s so many stories and memories of Brett, he was an amazing friend and will be missed very dearly.”

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  1. Michael Bewick says

    What a wonderful article. Brett Cappelli was like one of my own children. I loved him very much and will miss him terrible. He was my friend.

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