NEWMARKET, Ont. — The shattered widow of an Ontario police officer killed on duty fought to maintain her composure as she told thousands of mourners on Tuesday their young children were his greatest gift to her.
Standing in front of a hushed arena filled with more than 2,000 uniformed officers, family and friends, Melissa Styles read a letter to her beloved husband, Const. Garrett Styles.
“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.”
A large photograph of a uniformed Styles looked out from the front of the stage, which was filled with floral arrangements.
Relatives cradled the couple’s 10-week-old son Nolan. Their 2 1/2-year-old daughter Meredith was also among the 270 friends and family on hand for the service.
“The greatest gift you ever gave me was our two beautiful children,” said Melissa Styles, who fought back tears but did not break down.
“Thank you so much for making me a mother, and giving me something to hold on to now that you are gone.”
She received a standing ovation from those in the 2,960-seat arena, while many others watched the proceedings on a large screen set up outside.
The 32-year-old York Regional Police constable died in the early hours of June 28 a few kilometres east of Newmarket, Ont., after pulling over a minivan allegedly driven by a 15-year-old boy.
Police say the van suddenly sped off on the rural road, dragging the officer 300 metres, before tipping over and pinning him underneath.
His calm but desperate radio calls for help to his dispatch as he lay dying were widely published.
In his eulogy, Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke of how Styles’ last radio call expressed concern about people in the van that was crushing him to death.
“Not once, not twice, but three times, Const. Styles communicated his concern for the welfare of the occupants of the van that was lying on top of him,” McGuinty said.
“That is character, good character, strong character.”
York police Chief Eric Jolliffe remembered Styles had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Staff-Sgt. Garry Styles, who retired from the force in January after 33 years of service.
When his father came home from work, the chief recalled, a young Garrett would ask: “How many bad guys did you catch today, Dad?”
Six pallbearers — all police officers — were flanked by an honour guard as they carried the flag-covered casket into and from the arena to the sound of bagpipes.
Melissa Styles, holding Nolan, followed the casket along with Meredith and other family members.
His uniform hat and the flag that draped his casket were presented to his widow near the end of the televised service.
Hours before, thousands of officers from across North America had marched in a procession to the arena in Newmarket, where Styles was based.
Members of the public, including many children, lined the route, some carrying signs reading, ”Thank you Styles family.”
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. Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell died trying to stop a stolen snowplow in January.