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Whitney Houston's funeral planned for church where she first sang

The invitation-only memorial service will be held on Saturday.

A fan memorial to the singer outside the hotel where she died
A fan memorial to the singer outside the hotel where she died
Image: Damian Dovarganes/AP/Press Association Images

WHITNEY HOUSTON’S FUNERAL will be held on Saturday – invitation only – in the church where she first sang as a child.

The owner of the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark said Tuesday that there will be no public memorial at Newark’s Prudential Center, the sports arena that Houston’s 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 last Saturday at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California, just hours before she was set to perform at producer Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy Awards party. Officials said 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. It could be weeks before the coroner’s office completes toxicology tests to establish the cause of death.

Houston’s body was returned to New Jersey late Monday.

Houston was born in Newark and began singing as a child at the New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years. Cousin Dionne Warwick also sang in its choir.

Impromptu memorial

An impromptu memorial for Houston was held Sunday during the 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.

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.

On Monday, mourners left flowers, balloons and candles for Houston at the wrought-iron fence around the tall brick New Hope church.

Watch: Jennifer Hudson’s emotional tribute to Whitney Houston>

Bobby Brown leads tributes to Whitney Houston>

Whitney Houston found dead in Los Angeles hotel room>

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Associated Press

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