The principal of the elementary school that Whitney Houston attended in East Orange, N.J. -- the school that was renamed in her honor in 1997 -- was among those invited to the private funeral at New Hope Baptist Church.
As Henry W. Hamilton arrived he showed the formal invitation that would grant him access to the church, where celebrities, family and friends of Houston were gathering for what is being called a “home-going ceremony.”
The invitation features a close-up picture of Houston smiling and in a glamorous off-the-shoulder dress against a violet background.
"It’s been hard. I've been crying," said Hamilton, who has been principal of the school for 40 years.
Houston grew up in a house just up the street from the school, and Hamilton said he was proud to have been associated with her and her family.
"How many people can say they were principal of Whitney Houston's elementary school?" said Hamilton, adding that he sometimes wondered if there was another future star walking the hallways of the school.
"You never can tell," he said. "As I tell my boys and girls every day, the sky is the limit."