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Plans for private funeral for Houston dismay some fans

By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times –

NEW YORK — Whitney Houston will be mourned by family and friends in a private service Saturday at the Newark, N.J., church where she first began singing in public, and there will be no public events surrounding the funeral.

The announcement has left some fans crestfallen, especially after early reports indicated that the family was considering a public service for thousands of people at the Prudential Center sports arena in Newark, where Houston was born 48 years ago and where she sang in the choir at the New Hope Baptist Church.

Carolyn Whigham, the owner of the Whigham Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements, disclosed the plans Tuesday. She also said that Houston, who died Saturday, would not be buried in Newark, but she did not say where the pop queen would be laid to rest.

“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,” Whigham said by way of explaining the family’s desire for a private ceremony inside the New Hope Baptist Church, which since early Sunday has been visited by Houston fans leaving flowers, cards and other mementos at the church gate.

One of those who came by Tuesday, and who was disappointed to learn that the public would not be invited to the service, was Calvin Taylor, who said he had skipped work as a forklift driver to pay his respects.

“The public should have an opportunity to give a last goodbye to one of the city’s most beloved daughters,” he told The Star-Ledger. “She touched so many people, I think it’s terrible,” he said. “She’s got a lot of love here.”

Sharon Bailey agreed. “They should have one,” Bailey said of the idea for a public memorial. “She’s the queen of pop. Her death feels like a loss in my family.”

Local media reported that police planned to close the street on which the church is located to keep crowds away, but that if the family agreed to let a camera inside the church, large screens would be erected outside so fans could watch the service.

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