NEWARK, N.J.(AJC/AP) — Whitney Houston’s funeral will be held Saturday in the church where she first showcased her singing talents as a child.
The owner of the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark said Tuesday that the funeral will be held at noon at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.
The funeral home said that no wake would be held and that there would be no public memorial at Newark’s Prudential Center, the sports arena that the family had discussed as a possible venue.
The funeral service will be by invitation only, Carolyn Whigham said, reflecting the family’s desire to keep the memorial more personal.
“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,” she said.
“The family thanks all the fans, the friends and the media, but this time is their private time,” she said.
The 48-year-old Houston died Feb. 11 at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., just hours before she was set to perform at producer Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy Awards bash. Officials say she was underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from a bathtub.
After an autopsy Sunday, authorities said there were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston. It could be weeks, however, before the coroner’s office completes toxicology tests to establish the cause of death.
Los Angeles County coroner’s assistant chief Ed Winter said bottles of prescription medicine were found in the room. He would not give details except to say: “There weren’t a lot of prescription bottles. You probably have just as many prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet.”
Her body was returned to New Jersey late Monday.
Houston was born in Newark and was raised in nearby 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.
An impromptu memorial for Houston was held Sunday during a sadness-tinged Grammys, with Jennifer Hudson saluting her memory with a performance of “I Will Always Love You.” Viewership for the awards show soared over last year by 50 percent, with about 40 million viewers tuning in to the program on CBS.
On Monday, mourners left flowers, balloons and candles for Houston at the wrought-iron fence around the tall brick church, which sits near the edge of an abandoned housing project near the train line leading to New York City.
“She was an inspiration to everybody,” said Gregory Hanks, an actor who grew up in the neighborhood and who dropped off a bouquet. He saw Houston perform in New Jersey years ago.
“I grew up listening to her as a little boy, and to hear her sing, you knew she was special,” he said.
A sensation from her first album, Houston was one of the world’s best-selling artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, turning out such hits as “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” ”How Will I Know,” ”The Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You.” But as she struggled with drugs, her majestic voice became raspy, and she couldn’t hit the high notes.
Houston left behind one child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18, from her marriage to singer Bobby Brown.
AP Entertainment Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report from Los Angeles.