Two Black legends die locally, nationally

Written by admin   // February 17, 2012   // 0 Comments

Services set for Whitney Houston

Newark, N.J. — Whitney Houston’s funeral will be held Saturday in the church where she first showcased her singing talents as a child, her family choosing to remember her in a private service rather than in a large event at an arena.

The owner of the Whigham Funeral Home said Tuesday that the funeral will be held at noon at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, which seats up to 1,500.

The family said no public memorial service is planned at this time. Officials had discussed the possibility of opening up the Prudential Center, a major sports and entertainment venue, for a memorial, but the funeral home said it had been ruled out.

Funeral home owner Carolyn Whigham said the church service will be by invitation only, reflecting the family’s decision to keep the memorial more personal.

“They have shared her for 30-some years with the city, with the state, with the world. This is their time now for their farewell,” she said.

“The family thanks all the fans, the friends and the media, but this time is their private time,” she said.

Houston, 48, died Feb. 11 at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., just hours before she was set to perform at producer Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy Awards bash. Officials say she was underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from a bathtub.

After an autopsy Sunday, authorities said there were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston. It could be weeks, however, before the coroner’s office completes toxicology tests to establish the cause of death.

Los Angeles County coroner’s assistant chief Ed Winter said bottles of prescription medicine were found in the room. He would not give details except to say: “There weren’t a lot of prescription bottles. You probably have just as many prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet.”

Her body was returned to New Jersey late Monday.

Houston was born in Newark and was raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years.

Her cousin singer Dionne Warwick also sang in its choir.

Houston’s family asked Tuesday that any donations in her memory be sent to the arts-focused public school that she attended as a child and that was named after her in the late 1990s.

In lieu of flowers, they said mourners should donate to the Whitney Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in East Orange, a school serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Houston attended the school as a girl when it was named the Franklin School and was a regular visitor for many years afterward. On Monday, students held an outdoor service in her memory.

An impromptu memorial for Houston was held Sunday during a sadness-tinged Grammys, with Jennifer Hudson saluting her memory with a performance of “I Will Always Love You.” Viewership for the awards show soared over last year by 50 percent, with about 40 million viewers tuning in to the program on CBS.

On Tuesday, a steady stream of well-wishers continued to stop at the New Hope Baptist Church, where the front fence was adorned with dozens of flowers, balloons and oversized cards, some with hundreds of signatures and condolences written on them.

Several people expressed disappointment that a public memorial had not been scheduled. But they also said they understood why the funeralwas being kept private.

“Maybe at some point down the road, they might do something,” said B.J. Frazier, of East Orange, who said she had performed as a singer with one of Houston’s aunts.

“But it’s like they’re saying today, they shared her for a long time and they just want her to themselves for now.”

Houston left behind one child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18, from her marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

Educator Francis Brock Starms passes

Educator and children’s advocate Frances Starms, who was the first African American appointed director of MPS’ Head Start Program, died Thursday, February 9. She was 97.

Funeral services will be held Friday, February 17, at 11 a.m. at St. Mark AME Church, 1616 W. Atkinson Ave.

The viewing will be from 10 a.m. that Friday until the start of services.

Visitation will be Thursday, February 16 at Northwest Funeral Chapel, 6630 W. Hampton Ave., from 3 until 7 p.m. Family hour will be at the Chapel from 5 to 7p.m.

Born Frances Juanita Brock in Montgomery, Ala. on July 12, 1914 to Alpha Omega and Louis Edward Brock, whom both preceded her in death.

As a child, Starms and her family moved to California, where she attended elementary and junior high school. After she won an oratory contest at church, Starms was recognized by someone who offered  to send her to school in Atlanta.

She attended Atlanta University Laboratory High School; continuing her education at Spelman College in Atlanta where she graduated with honors.

She went on to receive her Master of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education at Atlanta University.

Her post graduate work also included scholarly research at the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin-Milwauke. In 2004 Starms was given an honorary doctorate in Public Service from the UW-Milwaukee.

Frances accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior at an early age. She was an active member of St. Mark AME for more than 62 years. On July 23, 1938, Frances united in holy matriony to Robert W. Starms. They were married for 45 years before Robert’s death. The union produced one child, a son, Stephen Brock Starms.

Starms begain her teaching career in Atlanta and continued in Indianapolis, Ind. Upon moving to Milwaukee in 1948, Starms began her employment with MPS, where she worked as a teacher. She was later appointed director of the district’s Head Start Program, becoming the first Black person to do so. Starms holds the distinction of being the only living person with three MPS schools named after her: Starms Early Childhood Center, Starms Monumental Early Childhood Center, and Starms Discovery Learning Center. 

Starms was a prolific writer of poet whose work was published locally and nationally, receiving many awards.

Starms is preceded in death by her husband Robert, one brother, William Brock; two sisters Laura Collins and Paula Miller and a nephew, Ronald Miller.

She leaves to cherish her memory her son, Stephen, one niece, Sheila Miller, who she raised; two grandchildren: Stephanie (Tim) Morgan and Robert (Tawanda) Starms, six great grand-children: Marques, Ashley, Mia, Amber, Aaron, and Marissa; one great-great grandchild Malana; three nieces: Patsy Johnson, Evelyn Galloway and Janette Brock; four nephews: Jimmy Miller, Vincent, Wali and Kenneth Brock; two great nieces: Frances (Halbert) Algee, Kim Cowan and a host of grand nieces, nephews and many close friends.

–Obit edited by MCJ Staff

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