MANHATTAN — They will always love her.
Thousands of mourners gathered to say goodbye to singing sensation Whitney Houston Saturday at star-studded funeral service in Newark, N.J., a week after the megastar was found dead in Los Angeles at the age of 48.
A host of celebrities — including actor Kevin Costner, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and producer Clive Davis — spoke or performed at the service at New Hope Baptist Church, where Houston sang as a young girl.
The three-and-a-half hour event, broadcast on nearly every television new station, was highlighted by Costner’s touching tribute to the pop diva.
“What becomes of our broken hearts?” said Houston’s co-star in the “The Bodyguard,” who spoke of pushing to cast the singer in the film, despite having to wait a year because of her touring schedule.
“Whitney returns home today, to the place where it all began. I ask that we dry our tears, suspend our sorrow, just long enough to remember the sweet miracle that was Whitney.”
Houston was discovered unconscious in a bathtub at the Beverley Hilton on Sat., Feb. 18, though the cause of death has not yet been determined.
She struggled publicly through drug addiction and her marriage to singer Bobby Brown, who exited the service early Saturday for unknown reasons.
Houston, who was raised in Newark and spent her early years performing in Manhattan venues, was to be buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, N.J.