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Thousands Gather To Say Farewell To Sweet Lena Horne

Lena Hornes Funeral Program

Lena Horne's Funeral Program

Jazz great Lena Horne, who died Sunday at age 92, was remembered by thousands of mourners at New York’s St. Ignatius Loyola church on Friday (May 14).

At the funeral — attended by Actress Leslie Uggams, Opera star Jessye Norman, actress Cicely Tyson, actress Diahann Carroll, actress/ singer Chita Rivera, Dionne Warwick, Vanessa Williams, Governor David Patterson, former Mayor David Dinkins crime writer Walter Mosley, her grandaughter, actress Jenny Lumet and many other friends and relatives— Horne was remembered by those who knew her as a girl from Brooklyn who became a world-renowned singer and actress and, in the process, lent her voice to those oppressed by decades of racism. But she was also so much more.

Horne’s granddaughter, actress Jenny Lumet who is also the writer of the 2008 film “Rachel Getting Married, along with former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Rep. John Lewis gave heartfelt eulogies.

“[She] was so many ideas existing all at the same time, in the same space, and they were all conflicting, and they were all true,” Lumet said, according to reports. “I’ve tried to sum her up and I can’t. … Summing up really means it’s over, and I think she’s not over and that she’s quite infinite.”

“With the passing of Lena Horne we have lost yet another of our greatest treasures and, for many of us, a very dear and precious friend,” Dinkins said. “And it’s very, very hard to say goodbye.”

Broadway star and multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald, sang “Amazing Grace” over the casket.

Back of Lena Hornes funeral program

Back of Lena Horne's funeral program

Horne’s paternal grandparents were early members of the NAACP civil-rights organization, and in a precursor to her lifelong battle on behalf of equal rights, she was the cover girl for the organization’s monthly bulletin in October 1919, when she was just 2 years old. She would go on to sing at Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club, appear in Broadway productions and star in Hollywood films, though she would often refuse to play roles that portrayed blacks in subservient positions, which limited her appearances.

By the 1940s, she was the top-earning black performer in Hollywood, playing lucrative nightclub gigs and gaining popularity among black and white G.I.’s during World War II. Horne’s sultry voice would go on to dazzle fans for decades on hits like “My Blue Heaven” and “Stormy Weather.”

Upon learning of her death, a whole new generation of artists — including Alicia Keys, Diddy and Monica — remembered Horne as a pioneer and a prodigious talent, one the world would probably never see the likes of again.

Thousands of people lined the streets and waiting outside the church to pay their respects to the late entertainer whose life had touched their lives in a good way.

In honor of the legendary Lena Horne, PBS will re-air the 1996 American Masters special “Lena Horne: In Her Own Voice” from May 14 through May 23, 2010. (Check local listings.)

Ms. Horne is survived by her only daughter Gail Lumet Buckley and a host of grand children and great grand children.

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