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STARS, fam­ily and friends mourned Whit­ney Hous­ton in a spir­ited fu­neral ser­vice at her home­town church yes­ter­day, a week af­ter the sud­den her death whose great voice made her one of the big­gest pop stars of her era.

A choir had guests sway­ing to gospel mu­sic in the crowded New Hope Bap­tist Church in Ne­wark, where Hous­ton first honed her wide vo­cal range as a young choir singer with her mother Cissy Hous­ton, a back-up singer for Aretha Franklin.

“Whit­ney re­turns home to­day to the place where it all be­gan,” said ac­tor Kevin Cost­ner, who starred op­po­site Hous­ton in the 1992 hit film The Body­guard.

He urged those around the world to “dry our tears, sus­pend our sor­row – and per­haps our anger – just long enough, just long enough to re­mem­ber the sweet mir­a­cle of Whit­ney.”

Hous­ton, who died in a Bev­erly Hills ho­tel room last week, recorded stir­ring love songs and vi­brant dance tunes dur­ing a 30-year ca­reer that peaked with her 1992 sig­na­ture hit I Will Al­ways Love You and paved the way for a gen­er­a­tion of singers that fol­lowed her.

Dur­ing the ser­vice her cousin and famed soul singer Dionne War­wick in­tro­duced a host of soul, gospel and pop mu­sic greats from the past and present, in­clud­ing Ali­cia Keys who said “it was so ob­vi­ous the way she just crept into ev­ery­body’s heart” be­fore per­form­ing the song Pre­lude to a Kiss.

In­flu­en­tial Hol­ly­wood ac­tor and pro­ducer Tyler Perry said Hous­ton’s “grace that led her all the way to the top of the charts,” and that “she is rest­ing, singing with the an­gels.”

Gospel singers who per­formed at the ser­vice in­cluded Kim Bur­rell and Don­nie Mcclurkin who sang Stand while the choir and church stood and swayed.

Many of Hous­ton’s fans in the past sev­eral days have left flow­ers, cards and bal­loons ded­i­cated to the singer who be­came a global star with her 1985 de­but al­bum that in­cluded the hits

Sav­ing All My Love For You, How Will I

Know and Great­est Love Of All. There was a heavy po­lice pres­ence out­side and streets were cor­doned off.

Pic­tures by Reuters

REST IN PEACE: Whit­ney Hous­ton hearse ar­rives at the New Hope Bap­tist Church in Ne­wark, New Jer­sey yes­ter­day.

SHAME: Bobby Brown, is de­nied en­trance to the fu­neral ser­vice of ex-wife Whit­ney Hous­ton yes­ter­day.

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