Fans: 'Everybody Loved Whitney'

Crowd gathers at Whigham Funeral Home to pay respects to Whitney Houston

As a gold hearse with a casket containing Whitney Houston's body pulled away from a Newark funeral home and headed towards New Hope Baptist Church, where the service was held Satuday, a woman behind the wheel wiped her wet eyes as fans gathered outside to pay tribute to the pop songstress.

Police vehicles and motorcycles led the way from Whigham Funeral Home with a line of gold limousines and the hearse, which had a picture of Houston taped to one of its windows. Fans took pictures of the procession and left offerings of flowers, teddy bears, balloons, and handwritten notes around the entrance of the funeral home.

In a glass foyer of the building was a large poster displaying pictures of Houston from various periods in her career. An opened Bible sat on a white satin chair as a vase of white roses stood next to the poster.

Lisa Ventura said she drove up all the way from New Castle, Delaware, to pay tribute to the pop icon she had known since she was a child. Ventura, who's originally from Newark and Hillside, said her family was friendly with Houston's family, and Ventura had played with Houston when they were children. Ventura said she herself worked for Houston's doctor in the past and would see Houston pop into the office every now and then.

"I just love Whitney to death," Ventura said.

"Her voice, personality, everything," Ventura said, expounding on Whitney's special qualities. "Everybody loved Whitney," Ventura added.

Bridget Cheatham, a Newark resident and Ventura's niece, came to the funeral home as well because she felt that she needed to be there.

"She grew up here and this was her home," Cheatham said.

Terri Suess, a Newark resident, left a handwritten note for Houston that read, "Dear Whitney, look at our places here and be our guiding angel." As Suess tried to read the rest of the note back, she broke into tears.

"I feel so bad for her," Suess said. "She was just a great person and so many people get destroyed by drugs and I hate them. She was such a beautiful person. She touched everybody."

People from the Westboro Baptist Church, who are infamous for protesting at the funerals of American soldiers and well-known public figures, had said they were going to picket at the funeral but a drive around the funeral home and the church did not reveal their presence.

Instead, there were smatterings of fans walking near barricaded streets as police kept roadways leading to the church on lockdown.

After the hearse had left the funeral home, some fans still lingered outside the building taking pictures.

Editor's Note: This report was updated at 1:52 p.m.


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