“We love you,” mourners cried, as the beautifully-painted casket for 16-year-old Cleveland Dodd, the State’s first juvenile to die in custody, was lowered into his grave. Hundreds gathered in the tiny town of Meekatharra on Friday to lay Cleveland to rest almost two months after his family were forced to turn off his life support in hospital. Meekatharra was where Cleveland spent the last years of his short life before he was incarcerated in the State’s notorious Unit 18, a juvenile wing inside the maximum security adult Casuarina prison. He died on October 19, a week after attempting suicide inside his cell. The air was thick with grief as friends and family members gathered to say their final goodbyes wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the smiling face of the teenager. On his coffin was an elaborate Aboriginal painting of bright blue and purple turtles in a sky-blue ocean, adorned with native flowers. More than 300 people travelled from across the country and the State — from South Australia, Esperance, Kalgoorlie and Moora — to attend the emotional service to pay tribute to the teen, who was loved deeply by his family and friends. Cleveland’s mother Nadene kept her head down for the duration of the ceremony, leaning her head on her loved ones to comfort her, holding her head in her hands. “This love I have inside me belongs only to you” said the speaker, on behalf of Ms Dodd. “I will miss you more each passing day, and it hurts to know I will never see your smiling face.” The service went ahead hours late after crisis talks with Corrective Services ended in it reversing a last-minute decision to not allow his jailed father, Wayne Gentle, to attend. Gentle, a prisoner at Greenough Regional Prison, was handcuffed for the service and flanked by two prison guards as he paid tribute to his son. Bent over the coffin, Gentle cried as he spent his final moments with his son, his only child, who he had dressed in the mortuary the night before. “I still can’t believe you have left me so early...the pain in my heart is becoming bigger and bigger each day” the reader said, speaking on behalf of Gentle. Gentle referred to his son as “pretty boy”, a nickname which resounded throughout tributes. “So much joy and happiness happened around you,” one tribute said. As his coffin left the town hall, mourners followed closely with photos of their son, brother, nephew and best friend — each photo a beaming image of a boy who was larger than life. “I remember the days we used to go hunting, and you and your brothers would misbehave. I remember it like it was yesterday my baby boy” said the speaker on behalf of Gentle. “We loved you more and more each day, we always have and we always will.” Gentle wore his son’s face on his t-shirt, as he sat with his head bowed for the ceremony. Cleveland’s school teacher also paid tribute to the teen, who she described as a bright boy with a big personality — a boy who loved his peers. His 100 per cent school attendance in primary school, and collection of merit certificates painted the picture of Cleveland as someone who loved to give back to his community, and was deeply cherished by all. Human rights activitst and family spokesperson, Gerry Georgatos said the temporary ban on Gentle being able to attend had added a tinge of sadness to the day however the family found strength in Cleveland’s spirit to not surrender and carry through. Corrective Services later approved the family’s request to have Gentle at the funeral. Since Cleveland’s death, a number of failures have been revealed, including that prison officers were watching movies and resting when he self-harmed.