As doors close, fans rush for Franklin farewell

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — The last of the mourners who turned out to pay their respects to Aretha Franklin calmly entered the Charles H. Wright Museum just after 10 p.m. Wednesday, surrounded by police.

Sandra Wilson of Eastpointe, left, and Linda Rheaum of Harrison Township look at the t-shirts they bought on Frederick Street.

A small crowd remained outside after the doors were shut, snapping pictures near a white hearse before officers told them the site was closed after two days of viewing and they had to clear out.

Moments earlier, Angelina Manuel had exited the building with other visitors after arriving around 8:45 p.m. The Detroiter couldn’t make it to the visitation earlier but wanted to make sure she saw Franklin one last time even if at the last minute.

“It’s exhilarating,” Manuel said. “We were just in awe. She was really beautiful, just like she was in life.”

The next, perhaps last, chance to view the singer is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday at the New Bethel Baptist Church at 8430 Linwood in Detroit.

The late line of visitors followed those gathered Wednesday morning to say goodbye to Franklin during the second day of public visitation.

As on Tuesday, the doors to the museum opened promptly at 9 a.m. The crowd let out a cheer before people began filing inside. 

The soulful songstress died Aug. 16 from advanced pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Sharon John, 62, came from Harlem in New York City to show the singer and the Franklin family how much Franklin meant to her.

“I had to let her and her family know that she was loved,” she said as pallbearers transferred the casket from a hearse to the museum at about 7:20 a.m. “I can’t believe I’m this close to her.”

By early morning, the line of fans snaked along the sidewalk from the museum’s front doors to the corner of Brush and Warren Avenue.

Police cars parked in front of the museum along Warren while TV news trucks sat in a lot between the science center and the museum.

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By 8 a.m., the line stretched half of a block down Brush. A couple of radio stations set up tents on the museum lawn and were blaring Franklin hits.

Maikiesa Payne, 49, of Southfield was waiting patiently to get into the museum.

She said she met the singer once when she was a little girl and ever since had a great love for Detroit’s favorite daughter. She even traveled to Washington, D.C., to see Franklin perform at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Theresa Isrow, right, takes a photo with her friend, Renee Davis, both of Detroit in front of a pink 1957 Cadillac DeVille outside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History where Aretha Franklin lays in state for the public in Detroit on Aug. 29, 2018.

“So I had to be here today,” Payne said. “Her music has been the soundtrack of our soul. Lots of good songs. Lots of good music. I’m glad she spent her life here in Detroit.”

Tuesday and Wednesday's visitation services at the museum were a prelude to events leading up to the funeral Friday.

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Her invitation-only funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Greater Grace Temple, 23500 West Seven Mile in Detroit.

A sold-out tribute concert will be held 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the Chene Park Amphitheatre, 2600 Atwater Street in Detroit.

Detroit News Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez