Winans, who also serves as the lead pastor at Detroit’s Perfecting Church, told the Detroit Free Press that he felt like he had lost a sibling when he learned the 48-year-old singer had died Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Houston’s mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, her cousin Dionne Warwick, and other family members gathered at Whigham Funeral Home in Newark well into the early morning hours Tuesday to shape plans for the service, funeral director Carolyn Whigham said.
Although a local community leader with ties to the family told The Star-Ledger on Monday that there would be a public wake and funeral at the Prudential Center on Thursday and Friday, the Houston family never confirmed it, Carter said.
“We view it as nothing more than a rumor,” he said.
The family has been split over where to bury Houston, with Cissy Houston and Warwick lobbying for Atlanta, where they believe Houston was happiest, the website TMZ reported.
However, two people familiar with the family’s plans told The Star-Ledger last night the family is considering burying her in a Westfield cemetery at least one day after the funeral. The people asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly for the family.
Meanwhile, Newark police have begun making plans for Saturday’s service, which is expected to draw thousands of fans and a crush of media.
“Obviously Whitney Houston was one of the greatest performers of our time, and certainly we expect a huge presence of other performers, actors, and we’re preparing for all that,” Police Director Samuel DeMaio said Tuesday.
DeMaio said police have begun closing streets near the church and that officials are working on a security plan for the funeral, expected to draw some of the biggest names in the music industry. He also raised the possibility of erecting a video monitor outside the church to accommodate fans and residents.
Outside the funeral home on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard yesterday, Whigham, who has known the family for decades, urged the dozens of reporters — some from as far away as Brazil and Russia — to let the family mourn in private.
“A mother has lost her child,” Whigham said. “It’s not planned that way.”
But fans, who waited outside the funeral home late Monday night to watch a gold hearse return New Jersey’s pop princess to her hometown and who continued to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside the church yesterday, mourned their missed chance to say farewell.