AP Photo/Paul Beaty
AP Photo/Paul Beaty
A day after skipping yesterday's public memorial, Jennifer Hudson was joined by family members and celebrity friends—including Oprah Winfrey, Usher, Queen Latifah, Patti LaBelle, Fantasia Barrino, Missy Elliott, Clive Davis, Ciara and Vogue's André Leon Talley—this morning in Chicago for a private service for the Oscar winner's slain mother, brother and nephew.
Roughly 200 people attended the invite-only service, which took place at the Apostolic Church of God on the city's South Side at 9 a.m. and lasted nearly three hours.
One of the more touching moments of the memorial was when American Idol alum Fantasia unexpectedly belted out the gospel classic "Your Grace and Mercy," which she dedicated to "my family," the Hudsons.
Fantasia performed the powerhouse song from the church's aisle, holding Jennifer Hudson's hand for the duration of her performance.
"She wailed, cried and was amazing," the guest told E! News.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Hudson took time to quietly say goodbye to her slain relatives during the service, stopping in front of each open casket and even leaning down to kiss her mother before returning to her seat.
Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, clad in a white dress, was laid to rest in a pink coffin. Brother Jason Hudson was dressed in a blue suit and lay in a blue casket, while nephew Julian King's outfit was all white, as was the 7-year-old's coffin.
Police were on hand from the early morning hours to direct traffic away from the building and keep spectators at bay while a procession that included a school bus, three hearses and several limos arrived at the church.
In addition to the celebrities on hand, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley were among those present to both hear and deliver some of the event's eulogies and Scripture readings.
"Such obvious pain. So much outpouring of love. People’s support—Fantasia and others were there just to show love and support," Jackson told reporters following the ceremony.
Several precautionary measures were taken to ensure the Hudson family's mourning could take place in private, including plastic partitions around the rear of the church to block looky-loos and video crews, as well as the closure of surrounding side streets.
"I shook her hand and told [Jennifer] she'd be OK," funeral attendee and longtime family friend Gloria Smith told E! News. "Her fiancé [David Otunga] stood by her side the whole time."
"[Hudson's cousins] were speaking of how the mother raised her kids in church,"
Smith added. "Julian's teachers spoke about how he was an honor-roll student and that he was good to his teachers. Every question they asked, he answered correct."
Julian's kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade teachers all spoke.
At the end of the service, a horse-drawn carriage-led funeral procession took off in the direction of the Oak Woods Cemetery, where the three victims will be buried.
Mourners gathered to celebrate the three victims of last month's tragedy, 57-year-old Donerson, 57; Jason Hudson, 29; and Julian. All died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The investigation into the trio's deaths is ongoing, and while no arrests have yet been made, William Balfour, the estranged husband of Julia Hudson, remains in custody and has been named as a person of interest.
—Additional reporting by Ken Baker
(Originally published Nov. 3, 2008, at 11:54 a.m. PST)