Winans celebrated the late pop star's warmth, enthusiasm and generosity before performing "I Really Miss You" Saturday at the New Hope Baptist Church where Houston sang as a child and teen.
The Grammy Award-winning singer's metallic casket was transported from a nearby funeral home in a golden hearse, then was covered in a huge spray of purple and white flowers and placed in the front of the church.
Standing behind Houston's coffin, and with his sister CeCe beside him, Winans said of Houston: "We spent a lot of time together and we talk about her voice and we talk about her talent and that's a beautiful thing. But what I'm going to miss is crazy Whitney."
Spurred on by the applause of hundreds of mourners gathered at the church, Winans recalled how, when he and his sister were getting ready for their first tour, Houston went without being asked and bought them and their backup singers costumes, then announced she was going to sing background for them. Winans said he and CeCe told Houston she couldn't leave her hugely successful solo career to help them out, but Houston assured them she loved them like her own brother and sister, and wanted to help.
"And this is what I'm going to miss," Winans said. "She said: 'Y'all are broke, right? And I'm rich, right? So I can buy what I want to for y'all.' But that is Whitney."
A private viewing of Houston's body was held Friday evening at Whigham Funeral Home in Newark. Among those who attended the wake Friday were Houston's mother Cissy, her 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina, her cousin Dionne Warwick and her mentor Clive Davis.
The group reunited Saturday afternoon for her funeral, which lasted nearly four hours. Seen entering the church were Mariah Carey, Roberta Flack, Rev. Al Sharpton, Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, LA Reid, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Star Jones, Forest Whitaker, Diane Sawyer, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mary J. Blige.
The music-filled service kicked off with a joyous song performed by the church's choir, the members of which were all beautifully dressed in white clothing.
Aretha Franklin, Houston's godmother, was set to sing at the funeral, but canceled Saturday morning because she was suffering from leg spasms.
R. Kelly, Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys sang during the service, while music producer Clive Davis, filmmaker Tyler Perry and actor Kevin Costner, Houston's co-star in the 1992 blockbuster "The Bodyguard," also shared a few words of remembrance.
Recalling how Houston was at times insecure on the film's set, despite her extraordinary beauty and talent, Costner addressed her coffin and said affectionately: "You weren't just pretty. You were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people didn't just like you, Whitney. They loved you."
He concluded by saying: "Off you go, Whitney. Off you go, escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father and when you sing before him don't you worry, you'll be good enough."
The funeral concluded with Houston's casket being carried out of the church as a recording of her signature song "I Will Always Love You" played.
Houston is to be buried Sunday alongside her father at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, N.J.
The 48-year-old music icon was found dead in her Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel room Feb. 11, on the eve of the Grammy Awards ceremony, which she was scheduled to attend.
Officials said they are awaiting the results of toxicology tests before determining the cause of her death, but sources close to her family have said a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs are believed to be to blame.
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