NEWARK - Whitney Houston's death has saddened her fans around the world but the loss seems to have hit hardest in New Jersey, where she grew up and where her family still lives.

Houston sold more than 55 million albums and won six Grammy Awards in her lifetime. However, the stunning successes of her life already felt long ago when the 48-year-old's body was removed from the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Admitted drug abuse and her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown left her career in tatters. But love for Houston never diminished in the Essex County communities where she grew up and where fans also left balloons and flowers in her memory.

The decision by the Houston family to keep the funeral private left loyal fans disappointed. "The family should have a heart. She is gone now and this our last chance to see Whitney," one fan said.

Those with an invitation gathered at the New Hope Baptist church for the ceremony. Houston, who was born in Newark and moved to East Orange when she was 4, performed as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the church when she was 11.