A private funeral for Houston at N.J. church

A crowd gathers outside of New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where a private funeral service for the late singer Whitney Houston will be held on Feb. 18.
A crowd gathers outside of New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where a private funeral service for the late singer Whitney Houston will be held on Feb. 18. (JULIO CORTEZ / Associated Press)

The site is the Newark church where she sang as a child. Gospel singer Marvin Winans will give the eulogy.

Posted: February 15, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. - Whitney Houston's funeral will be held Saturday in the church where she first showcased her singing talents as a child, her family choosing to remember her in a private service rather than in a large event at an arena.

The owner of the Whigham Funeral Home said Tuesday that the funeral would be at noon at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, which seats up to 1,500. Gospel singer Marvin Winans, a Grammy Award winner and longtime family friend, had been chosen to give the eulogy, his son said.

The family said no public memorial service was planned. Officials had discussed holding a memorial at the Prudential Center, which can seat about 18,000 people, but the funeral home said it had been ruled out.

Funeral-home owner Carolyn Whigham said the church service would be by invitation only, reflecting the family's decision to keep the memorial more personal.

"The family thanks all the fans, the friends, and the media, but this time is their private time," she said.

Houston, 48, died Feb. 11 at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., hours before she was to perform at producer Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards party.

Houston's body was returned to New Jersey late Monday. She was born in Newark and was reared in East Orange. She began singing as a child at New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years. Her cousin, singer Dionne Warwick, also sang in its choir.

Houston's family asked Tuesday that donations in her memory be sent to the arts-focused public school that she had attended and that was named after her in the 1990s. The Whitney Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in East Orange serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Gov. Christie ordered flags flown at half-staff Saturday at state government buildings. He called Houston a "cultural icon" who belongs in the same category of New Jersey music history as Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, and Bruce Springsteen.

"Her accomplishments were a great source of pride for the people of the state," he said.

Houston left behind one child, Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18, from her marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

Winans, in his role as a pastor, married Houston and Brown. The Winans and Houston families have been friends for years, and Houston performed with Winans' siblings CeCe and BeBe, members of one of gospel music's first families. Houston was especially close to CeCe and BeBe Winans and performed with both. She and CeCe sang "Count on Me," for the movie Waiting to Exhale, in which Houston starred.

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