Private funeral planned for Whitney Houston

Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:07pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A private funeral for Whitney Houston will be held on Saturday in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey, at the same modest New Jersey church where the R&B vocalist honed her singing skills on her way to becoming one of the biggest pop stars of her generation.

The invitation-only service will be held at noon (1700 GMT) at the New Hope Baptist Church, where Houston once sang gospel in the choir growing up, a family spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The spokeswoman did not rule out the possibility of a separate public memorial service later.

The Houston family thanked fans for their prayers but wanted a private service, funeral director Carolyn Whigham told reporters outside the Whigham Funeral Home where the singer's body was resting. She said there would be "nothing for the public," only the private funeral service.

"It was the family's decision," Whigham told reporters. "They have shared her for 30-some years with the city, with the state, with the world. This is their time now for their farewell to their daughter, mother."

The body of the beloved singer was flown to New Jersey late on Monday from Los Angeles. Dozens of fans lit candles and gathered outside the funeral home to greet the golden hearse carrying Houston's body on Monday night under tight security.

On Tuesday balloons and cards paid tribute to the pop star outside the church, a simple, red-brick house of worship on a quiet backstreet near downtown Newark where Houston began grabbing the limelight as a soloist in a gospel choir in the 1970s.

Her death on Saturday in a Beverly Hills hotel stunned the music world, her fans and her family. She was found underwater in a bathtub in a Beverly Hills hotel, according to police. They have declined to speculate on the cause of her death at age 48.

An autopsy was completed on Sunday, and a final death report is pending completion of an official investigation and toxicology reports that may take weeks.   Continued...

A general view of Whigham Funeral Home, which is handling the funeral service of pop singer Whitney Houston, is seen at Newark, New Jersey February 14, 2012.   REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz