- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - In Whitney Houston’s hometown, her family plans a private church service, with no public memorial set. In Los Angeles, where she died, there’s not even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for fans to pile flowers. So for the legion of music lovers mourning a global superstar, where do broken hearts go?

Fans who have gathered outside the church where Houston will be eulogized Saturday at an invitation-only service _ and outside the funeral home where her body now rests _ say they understand why the family wants to keep the world out the best they can. But they also yearned for the chance to fully share in the grief and the remembrance of a native daughter who made it big and made them proud.

Samuel Turner Jackson, of Newark, said he was looking forward to heading down to “The Rock,” as the Prudential Center is known. Before, that is, the funeral home announced Tuesday that no public service would be held at the 18,000-seat arena, an option that had been discussed.

The arena, home to the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, displayed an image of Houston on a screen outside Tuesday.


“We don’t know what the circumstances are, but we’re sure that the family did want to share something with the community that she gave so much to,” Jackson said. “But they have their reasons, and we’re going to do the best we can to pay our respects and to mourn her.”

Antonio Ballinger, of Newark, also hoped to attend a public service and “see her off,” and said he was saddened to hear he wouldn’t get the opportunity.

“But my blessings go out to the family, and I wish them nothing but the best,” he said.

The family said Tuesday it had no plans right now for a public memorial. Still, fans in this downtrodden city held out hope.

“Maybe at some point down the road, they might do something,” said B.J. Frazier, of East Orange. “It’s like they’re saying today, they shared her for a long time and they just want her to themselves for now.”

Houston, a sensation from her first, eponymous album in 1985, 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, 48, died Saturday at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., just hours before she was scheduled to attend producer Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy Awards bash. Officials say she was underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from a bathtub.

Authorities said an autopsy found no indications of foul play or 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.

Houston was born in Newark and 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, future pop star Dionne Warwick, also sang in its choir.

The family decided that, after sharing Whitney with the city, state and world for more than 30 years, “this is their time now for their farewell,” said funeral home owner Carolyn Whigham.

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

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