Jul 05 2011
NEWMARKET, Ont. - The wife of fallen police officer Const. Garrett Styles told his funeral service Tuesday 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 the service for the York Region officer, who died last week after being dragged and pinned under a minivan he had pulled over.
"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."
After finishing the letter, which took her about two minutes to read, Melissa Styles received a standing ovation from the mourners who packed the 2,960-seat arena north of Toronto. Hundreds of people watching on a massive screen outside wiped away tears as they listened to Styles' widow.
The couple's 10-week-old son Nolan was cradled by a family member in the audience while 2 1/2-year-old daughter Meredith also attended the ceremony.
"The greatest gift you ever gave me was our two beautiful children," said Melissa Styles, who fought tears but was able to get through her letter without breaking down. "Thank you so much for making me a mother and giving me something to hold on to now that you are gone."
Styles' uniform hat and the flag that draped his coffin were presented to his widow near the end of the service.
Throughout the ceremony, the 32-year-old Styles was remembered as a courageous, compassionate officer known for his good character.
Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke of how Styles, in his final moments, 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 Region officer, and even had a wagon when he was a boy that was decorated in the colours of the York department.
When Gary returned home from work, the chief recalled, a young Garrett would ask "How many bad guys did you catch today, Dad?"
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 service took 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 John McDermott singing "Ave Maria."
A large photograph of a smiling, uniformed Styles looked out from the front of the stage at the Ray Twinney Recreational Complex, surrounded by floral arrangements.
Hours before the memorial service, thousands of officers from across North America marched in a procession along Yonge Street, while members of the public lined the route to pay their respects.
Many children were in the crowd, some carrying signs reading,"Thank you Styles family."
Geoff Atkinson, a Newmarket resident, brought his 10-year-old son Trent. Many of Atkinson's relatives are police officers and he said Styles' death hit close to home.
"It could be anybody," he said. "Every police officer puts their life at risk every time they go out, so it could be my brother, it could be our grandfather, it could be anybody."
Maddie Dimuccio, a Newmarket town councillor, brought her three boys to watch.
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.