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Aretha Franklin memorial brings thousands to her father's church

Published: Aug. 30, 2018 at 11:25 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2018 at 5:32 AM CDT
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DETROIT, MI (WMC) - The third and final public viewing for Aretha Franklin took place in Detroit on Thursday.

The body of "The Queen of Soul" arrived at New Bethel Baptist Church--the church she grew up in and where her father was pastor--on Thursday ahead of a weekend full of services for the music legend.

"It saddens all of us to know that out of all the times she has been here, this is indeed the last time," Rev. Robert Smith, Jr., senior pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church, said.

Thursday's crowds were smaller than the ones Tuesday and Wednesday, but the love was just as big.

Fans started lining up outside the church at 4 a.m. They brought makeshift memorials and awaited Franklin's arrival.

Fans serenaded one another to pass the time as they stood in line for hours waiting for the Queen of Soul's bronze casket, which is completely covered with a plate of 24-carat gold, to arrive.

Some of the fans had been to the previous two public viewings, but they still got up bright and early to make sure they were first in line at Franklin's childhood church.

"It's been really surreal for me. I'm going to take it all the way. I'm going with her, all the way," Avis Campbell said.

It was the third day Campbell and her friend Ava Rowe attended public memorials for Franklin. The Queen was dressed in blue Wednesday and in red Tuesday.

"It's something I can pass down to my grandkids. It is amazing, and she is so gorgeous in that red," Rowe said.

Thursday, Franklin wore a rose-gold sequin and chiffon gown with gold sequin red-bottom stilettos and pale pink nails.

Rev. Jesse Jackson stopped by the church just after 1 p.m.--one icon paying tribute to another.

Detroit has buried big names before. Rosa Parks' Motor City funeral lasted eight hours, but never has the public here had the opportunity to celebrate an icon like they've had the past three days.

"She never left the church, never left these streets, and people are here today to say thank you," Jackson said.

Jackson and author Michael Eric Dyson both honored the singer Thursday. Friday, they will be among a who's who of powerhouse speakers and performers at Franklin's funeral.

"A woman of grace always. A woman of dignity, who loved her people, who loved her city," Dyson said.

A city adopted by the queen years after her humble beginnings in Memphis--a legend who will take her final bow Friday on a world stage.

Following the final viewing, a memorial concert took place featuring several local artists as well as some big national names.

Friday, the world will say its final goodbye to the Queen of Soul. Her funeral is set to begin at 10 a.m. Jennifer Hudson will sing Amazing Grace, Arianna Grande will sing Natural Woman, Chaka will sing Going Up Yonder.  The celebration scheduled to last about 6 hours.

WMC Action News 5's Joy Redmond will be in Detroit the rest of the week as thousands celebrate Franklin's life.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.