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Private Funeral For Whitney Houston Saturday At New Hope Baptist Church In Newark

NEWARK, NJ (CBSNewYork) -- A private funeral will be held Saturday for Whitney Houston at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where the pop star sang as a child.

Houston's funeral service will begin at noon in the sanctuary of the church, but is by invitation only. Delivering her eulogy will be pastor and gospel singer Marvin Winan who presided over Houston's marriage to ex-husband Bobby Brown.

Houston's burial will likely be at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, the same cemetery where her father was buried in 2003. Funeral home owner and longtime family friend Carolyn Whigham said the intimate service is fitting.

"They have shared her for 30 something years with the city, with the state, with the world. This is their time now for their farewell," said Whigham.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reports


The sanctuary of the church will be closed to the media. The news of a private funeral arrangement has disappointed some fans who wanted of a public funeral or viewing of their icon.

"I think she is a public person. She belongs to everybody," Daniel Batista said.

"I feel she should have the people close to her. We're her fans. We have her in our hearts, always," added another fan.

However, Charles Lee, a former bodyguard for Houston and her family said the private service is what she would have wanted.

"Whitney is a very peaceful person, and in my heart, I feel that she would feel the same way," he told CBS 2's Derricke Dennis.

Some local activists, though, are trying to organize a public event and give Houston's hometown a chance to grieve their greatest love of all.

Earlier, the Prudential Center in Newark confirmed that a two-day, public memorial will be held there, although it is now no longer clear if that will happen. Also on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie said he will order flags at all state buildings to be flown at half-staff on Saturday.

LISTEN: WCBS 880's Marla Diamond In Newark


The pop diva's body was flown from Los Angeles to Teterboro Airport late Monday night and arrived shortly before midnight at Whigham Funeral Home, where mourners were waiting with candles and cards.

Photos: Remembering Whitney Houston

"She was very well-loved and I just felt that I needed to be here," said John Willis from Passaic.

Houston left an indelible mark on the music industry around the world and particularly in Newark, where she grew up. Fans continued to pay tribute Tuesday to the fallen music icon outside the funeral home and outside New Hope Baptist Church.

New Hope Baptist Church Memorial
A memorial set up for Whitney Houston outside New Hope Baptist Church in Newark on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Reverend Joe Carter, the pastor of New Hope, said Houston's family has been struggling to strike a balance between dealing with their own personal grief and sharing the legendary singer's loss with the rest of the world.

"Because it's not just the famous people. The obscure, regular old folks loved Whitney Houston," Carter said.

He said accommodations will be made for the thousands of fans and mourners expected to show up outside the church on Saturday.

"For the public to see, if not all but some of what is the celebration of the life of Whitney Houston," Carter said.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Steve Sandberg reports


There has also been a glowing tribute to Houston on the Prudential Center's marquee since Monday night when the singer's body returned home.

Houston's family is also carrying on her mission to support the Whitney Houston Academy in East Orange and asking all donations in her memory be sent there.

"We will take that money and use it wisely," Principal Henry W. Hamilton told CBS 2's Ann Mercogliano. "In a public school, where sometimes  funds are short for performing arts programs, that will be a tremendous help."

The singer died Saturday after being pulled from a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hilton. Police said they found prescription medications in Houston's room, though they said it was about what an average medicine cabinet might contain.

An autopsy has been conducted, but toxicology tests are pending and the results could take six to eight weeks. Houston's battle with substance abuse was well-known, leaving many to suspect she may have overdosed.

"The Insider's" Kevin Frazier talked to a member of Houston's entourage about the singer's demeanor on Saturday.  That individual said she "was fine" and not under the influence, adding that Houston "fell and half her body was in the bathtub."

Houston leaves behind a daughter, 18-year-old Bobbi Kristina Brown, from her marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

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