Private funeral service set for Houston

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NEWARK -- 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 will be held at noon at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, which seats up to 1,500. Grammy-winning gospel singer Marvin Winans has been chosen to give the eulogy, his son, Marvin Jr., said. Winans, in his role as a pastor, had married Houston and singer Bobby Brown in 1992.

The family said no public memorial service is planned at this time. Officials had discussed the possibility of opening up the Prudential Center, for a memorial, but the funeral home said it was ruled out.

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

Houston, 48, died Saturday 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.

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She was born in Newark and was raised in East Orange. She began singing as a child at New Hope Baptist, where her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years.

Houston's family asked that any donations in her memory be sent to the arts-focused public school she attended and that was named after her in the late 1990s. In lieu of flowers, they said, donations could be made to the Whitney Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in East Orange.

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