Champaign vigil set to mark death of Houston

Champaign vigil set to mark death of Houston

CHAMPAIGN — A candlelight vigil with song and speakers is scheduled for Thursday to mark the death of singer Whitney Houston.

Seon Williams, owner of Williams Memorial Funeral Home, 1203 N. Market St., C, is organizing the vigil, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the northwest corner of Bradley Avenue and Market Street.

The 48-year-old Houston 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. It could be weeks, however, before the coroner's office completes toxicology tests to establish the cause of death.

Houston's funeral will be Saturday in Newark, N.J.

"Whitney's from our era," Williams said. "We've lost so many different people from our era ... that suddenly passed away," he said. "I thought it would be kind of nice if we gel as a community and just share this moment together."

Sherrika Ellison will lead those in attendance in song.

Scheduled speakers include state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, former county board chairwoman Patricia Avery, Pastor Thomas Miller of the New Life Church of Faith in Danville and Pastor Lekevie Johnson of Jericho Missionary Baptist Church in Champaign.

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woopitydo wrote on February 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm


Beem wrote on February 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm

And the fact that Mayor Gerard and Senator Frerichs are actually attending/speaking make it even more worthy of the question, "really?".

freechampaign wrote on February 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Maybe they should do this every time an American Soldier dies in the Line of Duty instead of when a celeb dies under questionable circumstances.

woopitydo wrote on February 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm

THANK YOU!!! That is exactly what I was thinking. Heck, not just our Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen, what about everytime a Veteran passes. What does she have to do with Champaign and what did she do that was so great?! Yes, she was a fantastic singer but all she was known for was singing and doing drugs! Not that her past should be held against her, but this vigil is just stupid.

freechampaign wrote on February 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Pfc. Cesar Cortez, 24, of Oceanside, Calif.; died Feb. 11

Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, of North Arlington, N.J.; died Feb. 10

Sgt. 1st Class Billy A. Sutton, 42, of Tupelo, Miss.; died Feb. 7

All in combat zones. I could go on but I should not have to!

pdiehl279 wrote on February 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Is this an April Fool's story six weeks too early? Be serious?  Whitney Houston!!!!! Hardly a role model and why would any political figure think it was a good idea to speak at such an event -- did they check their brains at the door?

UIUCHoopFan wrote on February 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Well THAT hurt when my jaw hit the floor!  Was anyone in CU talking about the late Whitney Houston a week ago?  I think not much if any.  The best rendition of "The National Anthem" I've ever heard, I'll give her that, but her sad passing as a hypothesized result of her drug/alcohol abuse certainly doesn't warrant our fair town to come to a screaming halt. 


ttaylo776 wrote on February 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

WOW! I really think that is the only word I can say right now. Because I am so speechless!! I mean its really none of my business what these people choose to do with their time.. but i just wish i had time like that to waste!

And on that note... I would like to invite everyone out to the park on Saturday, MY FISH DIED A WEEK AGO TOO! (of more natural causes then Ms. Houston!)!!!

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Let's be honest.  People still hold a vigil for Elvis in Memphis.  It is really none of my business if people hold a vigil of their choosing.  I agree that more vigils should be held for military members who gave their lives.  Let's not limit freedom of speech based on politics, race, gender, or other things based on our self beliefs.  If it does not harm others, it is none of others business.  

Au1 wrote on February 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

Good point, and I completely agree with your overall argument. However, Elvis at least lived in Memphis. What connection does Whitney Houston have to Champaign besides playing at the Assembly Hall?

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

Well, if Willie Nelson dies before me; I probably would go to a vigil locally.  I really do not want to drive to Texas.  I don't think that vigils are restricted to a geographic area.  People have a right to hold a vigil where ever they live.  If it is not hurting others, others should not complain.  Is the opposition to the Houston vigil because she was Afro-American, or used drugs, or something else?

Au1 wrote on February 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

Personally, I'm not opposed to a vigil. I agree with you that if it's not hurting anyone, there's nothing wrong with having a vigil. I guess I just didn't realize that our community had so much adoration for her that they are holding a vigil. As someone else mentioned above - no one was talking about her a week ago...

woopitydo wrote on February 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

I dont think a single one of my comments stated that people did not have the right to hold the vigil. I believe I stated I thought it was stupid. I have that right to freedom of speech too. I also think the protesters are just as stupid!

woopitydo wrote on February 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

I dont think a single one of my comments stated that people did not have the right to hold the vigil. I believe I stated I thought it was stupid. I have that right to freedom of speech too. I also think the protesters are just as stupid!

drewbud87 wrote on February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Clearly, many people had a connection to Whitney Houston, not unlike Elvis or other performers/icons.  Perhaps you don't see it that way, but at least try to understand people have a right to do whatever they want....remember when Joe Paterno died his memorial was nationally televised- despite recent involvement in scandal (although I don't place any blame on him - others may).  It's unfair to judge the meaning of people and their passing in terms of what it means to people.  I agree that the soldiers should be given the utmost respect and regard in their passing, but really then should anyone else be memorialized publicly outside of them...I don't know.

danrice56 wrote on February 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I agree that, as long as it doesn't harm others, there is no reason to not hold an event, no matter how ridiculous some may find it to be.

However, that doesn't mean that there is nothing wrong with holding a candle lit, tear soaked vigil for a celebrity.


The attention and devotion paid to celebrities is directly inverse to their overall contribution to society.


Firefighters, paramedics, police officers, soldiers, teachers, doctors, even those who stock the food in our supermarkets and those who clean up after us contribute way more to our daily lives, to our health and happiness, than the average celebrity.


Yet people who risk their lives, those who educate the very future of our country, are mostly taken for granted, and those who stock our food, clean up after us, serve us food, are treated like second class citizens.


But let someone warble a tune, play dress up, or hit a little ball with a stick, we practically bow down before them and kiss the ground they walk on.


I think it's symptomatic of a larger problem: the shallowness of our culture. We got ourselves into this financial crisis by focusing on wants instead of needs. Spending millions to amuse ourselves instead of meeting our basic needs and saving towards a rainy day.


It would be unpleasant to live in an austere society where we only focused on the necessary. But we've gone way too far in the other direction.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a particular actor or singer.


But it should never come to the point of worship.


When we place celebrities up so high, what else are we saying but the rest of us are down so low? We are not. All humans are equally valuable.

jsjohnson3 wrote on February 16, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Who are any of you to decide who is eligible for a vigil, regardless of who is involved and who the deceased is?  For those of you who want a vigil for fallen soldiers, why don't you create one? I'm sure that their communities have done so.  Each of us has emotions that are not created equal at specific times and should not be criticized if we choose to memorialize someone that we choose. I don't believe, as one put it, that it is a race-based memorial, but for a celebrity that we remember who brought us so much joy and wonderful music during her career.  It is so sad that she became "ill" and now we find ourselves so quick to judge that.  It could be you or someone you know.  Would that make a vigil any less? I'm sure her daughter will appreciate the thoughts.  It's not about you!

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 16, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I watched the 6:00 news tonight; and I was disgusted.  My father was buried with military honors from his local VFW.  He fought for Freedom during World War II.  What I saw was a group of protesters across the street from the Houston vigil.  They were protesting the vigil because there were not enough vigils for fallen military members.  There is not enough vigils for our fallen heros.  However, who gives some group the right to decide who can have a vigil, or not.  Is there to be no vigils for respected clergy members of any religion?  Is there to be no vigils for fallen firefighters?  Is there to be no vigils for fallen law enforcement members?  No vigils for respected teachers?  Who gives some mob the right to decide.  I am White.  I never bought a Whitney Houston album.  Yet, I know what my father taught me.  I know that he would have said that he fought for people to have freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech.  He would not have attended the vigil; but he would have condemed anyone who sought to show disrespect for it.  I wish that the camera would have panned the protesters so their families, friends, and neighbors would have seen them.  I might disagree with a group, a political party, or someone; but I never would have disrupted their vigil.  Have we as a society lost all sense of Freedom?  Shame, shame on those protesters.  I see them the same as the religious zealots who disrupted military funerals of fallen military heros.  Don't wrap yourself in the flag when you disrespect the Constitution.

ttaylo776 wrote on February 17, 2012 at 8:02 am

Well who gives the right to say people cant protest what they believe in...

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

Your right.  The religious zealots were found to have the right to heckle, and protest the funerals of fallen heros at their funerals.  They had the right to protest.  It was disgraceful; but they had the right.  Mohawk Man, and his followers have the right to protest across the street from a vigil.  Would it not be better to have a vigil regularly at an existing site for our military heros, and veterans?  There are sites.  No one would condem it.  In fact, they would applaud it. The idea of tagging onto another vigil for the sake of promoting awareness for veterans seems distasteful.  The concern was the vigil for a celebrity.  Yet, the spokesman for the protesters seemed to want to appear as a local celebrity.  No one is disputing that veterans issues need more attention; but to obtain it that way draws the wrong attention.  Why not hold vigils, or protests for veterans issues yourselves instead of tagging on to another vigil for publicity; and perhaps self noteriaty?  I thought the gentleman on the 10:00 news who was attending the Houston vigil showed class, and grace by talking to the protesters; and defusing what could have been a confrontation.  Mohawk Man, and his followers are involved with a great cause; but to get attention in the manner they did does not show class, or grace.  Is it because of the desire to have local celebrity status; or is it a mistaken way to draw attention to veteran issues?   

Boy2Man wrote on February 16, 2012 at 8:02 pm

It sort of baffles me to see some complaining about the lack of attention given when soldiers or public workers, who fight for our everyday freedoms die. Yet you're taking the time to oppose one of those everyday freedoms, a completely peaceful one at that. So what if the mayor is in attendance or wants to speak? So what if it's honoring a celebrity that none of the participants knew personally? Like someone earlier already said, who are we to decide who's lives are celebrated or deaths are mourned when it does not affect you. I understand some may feel like this event is "making a big deal out of nothing" but giving a big fuss about it makes it that much more rediculous.

asparagus wrote on February 17, 2012 at 7:02 am

I don't oppose the vigil. I believe that if people are moved as a group to mourn they absolutely have that right, and it should not be disrespected. It doesn't surprise me that people who would have flocked to a performance of Houston's with awe and reverence would also feel a sense of loss at her passing.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 19, 2012 at 7:02 am
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If I were to limit my commentary on this article to cruel sarcasm, I might suggest that the flame of a lighter under a spoon would be a "candlelight vigil" more befitting of how Whitney Houston's life turned out.

Personally, I don't understand going to a candelight vigil for an entertainer.  I am a fan of countless entertainers, but I can't see myself going to a vigil for any of them if they passed away.  I agree with dan rice's comments regarding how we put celebrities on a pedestal.  Our society's preoccupation with celebrities is absurd.

Still, I must notice that so many people, including the mayor and a state senator, took the time to attend this event.  They must feel that this woman who they never met has had a profound impact on their lives.  How can I fault them for greiving this woman if that's what they want to do?  Surely the people protesting this vigil have more productive ways to spend their evening than to try and spoil it for some people who want to pay their respects to Ms. Houston, all in the name of respecting dead soldiers.  Is bringing up the name of fallen soldiers to make petty arguments about Ms. Houston's "worthiness" of a vigil really showing fallen soldiers any respect at all?

peabody wrote on February 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Instead of protesting the lack of vigils for fallen service members, how about those anti-Houston protesters, you know, hold a vigil for fallen service members?