American music and movie star Whitney Houston died February 11 in Los Angeles at the age of 48. Although she was known to struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, the cause of her death is still to be determined. Meantime, her body was flown to her home town in New Jersey for burial. And fans have come from near and far to pay respects to her talent.
Outside the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, fans and friends left messages, flowers and other outpourings to say “goodbye” and thank you to the star.
Scribbled notes said her voice had brought goose bumps and that her greatness will always be remembered.
Houston sang as a child at the church, and it's where her private funeral will be held on Saturday.
A few blocks away, Houston's body lay at the Whigham Funeral Home.
Funeral director Carolyn Whigham said she knew Houston even before she was born. She begged the media to respect the family's privacy in this time of grief. “Whitney has shared her entire life with the public. This is her final farewell. Let her family share that time with her. It’s never easy and it’s not easy when it’s someone you know, that you respected and that you admired," she said.
In East Orange, the Whitney Houston School for the Performing Arts, stands as testimony to the admiration for Houston in this part of America.
Gregory Whittle came to the school to pay his respects. He grew up with Houston and knows her entire family. "A lot of times in the basement you could hear her singing. Singing in the back by the pool. I remember when she was on the cover of Seventeen magazine. But I mean.. she was just Nippy, you know what I mean?" he said. "I didn’t think she was going to be that big of a star but she had a gift. It was strictly from God."
Henry Hamilton is the school's principal. He also knew Houston well. His office is adorned with photos of her. He was fond of her.
"She was real quiet, small, we called her Nippy but a very adorable youngster. All people have problems, obstacles in their life," Hamilton stated. "There were obstacles there, but before that obstacle was there, she was most successful. During those 48 years, all the records she made, the number one hits, the number of albums she sold, beautiful, on top.”
Whitney Houston was a giant in the music industry. She may have died, but her memory will live on in those she touched.. both personally and with her music.