NEWMARKET, Ont. - Const. Garrett Styles is being remembered as a courageous, compassionate police officer who was known for his good character.

A memorial service for the fallen York region officer has drawn thousands to a community centre in Newmarket, Ont., north of Toronto.

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

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.

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.

Styles' wife Melissa is sitting in the front row, her 10-week-old son Nolan cradled by a family member next to her. Her 2½-year-old daughter Meredith is also attending the service.

"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.

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.

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.''

If she is up to it, Styles' wife Melissa is expected to deliver a eulogy at the memorial.

"She is having a hard time with all of this," York Regional Police Sgt. Gary Phillips said of the young officer's wife.

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.

Colleagues have described Styles, who pleaded for help on his police radio as he lay pinned under the minivan, as a dedicated officer and the great kind of guy you would want as a neighbour.

Styles would have turned 33 on Sunday.

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.