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7:55pm UK, Saturday February 18, 2012
Fans gathered close to the church for Whitney Houston’s funeral, as the late singer’s friends and family remembered her at a service in Newark, New Jersey.
Whitney’s body is reportedly being held in a platinum coffin with gold handles.
Over recent days, fans have gathered outside the church to lay flowers and write messages to the pop star, but the family have decided it will be a private ceremony, by invitation only.
Houston family friend Reverend Jesse Jackson told Sky News Online that Cissy Houston was a “strong woman of faith” who wanted to bring her daughter home.
He said: “I think the parents at some point just wanted to just have her for themselves for a moment. She’s been out there so long, and people had her all these years.
“I think they finally wanted to reduce the circus atmosphere and make it about the church.”
A woman selling pictures of Houston ahead of the late singer’s funeral service in Newark
Houston’s godmother Aretha Franklin had been due to perform, but she was too ill to attend.
One camera was allowed inside the church to broadcast footage from the ceremony.
Ahead of the funeral, fans congregated outside the Whigham funeral home where Houston’s body was being held.
They queued to sign a condolence book in front of a large poster of the star. One fan played her greatest hits for the crowd to enjoy.
Many fans expressed sadness that there are no plans for a public memorial, but were happy that the local girl-turned global pop icon was coming home.
Sherri Glover said: “Her music really touches your heart, touches your soul, she was a great person and she’s one of us and we just love her.”
Sharon Kane said: “She came home, and I think a lot of us feel that way. She’s representing Newark, she came back to Newark and I am very happy about that.”
A guest at Houston’s funeral looks at the tributes left by fans outside the church
Caliphia Rix said: “I’m right from the same block she’s from. My son goes to her elementary school now and it’s close to home, it’s really close to home.”
At that elementary school, which is now named after her, Houston’s old head master Dr Henry Hamilton told Sky News he was proud but also very sad to be invited to the funeral of one of his students.
He said: “It’s a sad occasion for the local community, and they wish nothing but the best for Whitney.
“She was an angel here, now she’s an angel upstairs, and hopefully she’s looking down and still singing those beautiful words.”
Houston’s family have reportedly chosen to bury the star at the Fairview cemetery in nearby Westfield. Her father John was buried there in 2003.
The singer’s former husband Bobby Brown was not wanted at the funeral, according to some reports, but it has since been confirmed that he had been invited.
He and Houston have an 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina. She was rushed to hospital to be treated for stress following her mother’s death.
:: Sky News is broadcasting the service live on television, online and the iPad. You can read about it as it happens on your smart phone.
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