NEWS
07/05/2011 10:06 EDT | Updated 09/04/2011 05:12 EDT

Const. Garrett Styles Funeral Draws Thousands

CP

THE CANADIAN PRESS — NEWMARKET, Ont. - The wife of fallen police officer Const. Garrett Styles says she's "in pieces" after losing her first and only love.

Melissa Styles remained remarkably composed as she read a letter to her late husband during a memorial service for the York Region officer.

"We always told each other 'I love you to bits and pieces,' and that has never been more true," she said. "Right now I am in pieces, but I will put myself back together for our children because I know that was what you would want me to do."

The couple's 10-week-old son Nolan and 2½-year-old daughter Meredith are at the ceremony.

"I'm not sure how I'm going to live in a world without you, but I promise that I will find a way," she said. "I love you. You were so loved."

Styles died last week after he was dragged and pinned under a minivan he had pulled over.

Styles is being remembered as a courageous, compassionate officer who was known for his good character.

Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke of how Styles conveyed his concern over his police radio about the occupants of the van that was crushing him to death.

"Not once, not twice, but three times, Constable Styles communicated his concern for the welfare of the occupants of the van that was lying on top of him," said McGuinty. "That is character, good character, strong character."

A 15-year-old boy faces first-degree murder charges in Styles' death.

York Chief Eric Jolliffe remembered Styles as a dedicated, capable officer who had always wanted to follow in his father's footsteps by joining the police department.

Jolliffe recalled how Styles idolized his father Gary, a retired York Regional officer, and even had a wagon when he was a boy that was decorated in the colours of the York department.

The chief described Styles as "a thinker" who was thorough, knowledgeable, respected, considerate, quietly confident and hard-working.

One of Styles' uncles said Gary Styles always knew his son, who would have turned 33 last Sunday, could see the big picture.

"When others saw mayhem and disorder, he could see the clear picture of what needed to be done," Gary was quoted as saying by the uncle. "If you had to go to war, my son is who you'd want in the trenches with you."

Earlier, six pallbearers — all police officers — were flanked by an honour guard as they carried Styles' flag-covered casket into the community centre where the funeral is taking place.

Melissa — cradling Nolan — followed the coffin into the arena along with Meredith and other family members.

The sound of bagpipes filled the hall as the casket was carried in.

The service opened with Canadian artist John McDermott singing "Ave Maria."

A large photograph of a smiling, uniformed Styles looks out from the front of the stage at the 2,960-seat Ray Twinney Recreational Complex, along with various floral arrangements.

Hours before the memorial service, people had begun setting up chairs along the procession route. Thousands lined the street, including many young children carrying signs reading, ''Thank you Styles family.''

Maddie Dimuccio, a Newmarket town councillor, brought her three boys to wait outside the arena.

It was, she said, in part to teach them a lesson, in part to pay respects.

"The most important reason is to have my children come out and see how a split-second decision and poor judgment can change the lives of so many people," Dimuccio said.

"It's also important to come out and pay respects and tribute to a man who has sacrificed his life."

The teen charged in Styles' death, who was badly hurt in the incident, is slated to make his first court appearance Thursday.

If convicted, the boy could face a maximum sentence of life behind bars with no possibility of parole for 10 years.

It's the second funeral for an Ontario officer killed in the line of duty this year after Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell died trying to stop a stolen snowplow in January.

The last York Regional Police constable to be killed was Det. Const. Robert Plunkett in 2007. He died when a stolen car driven by Nadeem Jiwa pinned the 42-year-old officer against a tree.