Private Viewing Held In Actor’s Hometown Of Park Ridge, N.J.

PARK RIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A private viewing was held Wednesday for actor James Gandolfini in his hometown of Park Ridge.

Police were on the scene at the Robert Spearing Funeral Home to make sure that the intimate, private wake be restricted to family and friends only. Still, fans of Gandolfini’s work were getting as close as they could, reported CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.

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Meanwhile, friends and family members hid behind umbrellas as they filed into the funeral home. The actor’s 8-month-old daughter and 13-year-old son were protected the most.

Other relatives stopped by the cameras to talk to reporters about a man so talented, so respected and so very missed.

“Of course it’s difficult. This man was like everybody’s hero and it was just the worst thing in the world that could possibly have happened,” Gandolfini relative Bob Price told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.

“Just a very outgoing guy — very friendly, very popular in school, very sweet,” said Yvonne Holstrom, a high school friend.

A man who was Gandolfini’s driver off and on during his entire Sopranos run also spoke.

“He was a very likable, generous, kind human being,” the driver said.

Drivers were going slowly past Spearing Funeral Home, looking for famous faces filing in to pay their respects to the actor.

Others stood out in front of the funeral home to pay their respects to Gandolfini. Flowers were placed on the front lawn the funeral home.

“It’s a tribute to him what; he did for television and Italians,” said Linda Miozzi of Cliffside Park.

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“Very sad, a local hero. Grew up in town. Definitely a sad day,” one man told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

“I saw him a couple of times at the diner, said hello and he was just a wonderful guy,” another Park Ridge resident said.

An HBO spokesperson said some “The Sopranos” actors were planning to pay their respects at the wake.

The 51-year-old star, who grew up in nearby Westwood, died last Wednesday in Rome.

Broadway theaters were also expected to dim their marquee lights at 8 p.m. Wednesday in memory of the actor who earned a Tony Award nomination in 2009 for his role in the award-winning “God of Carnage.”

In lieu of flowers, the Gandolfini family asked that donations be made in the actor’s memory to the Wounded Warrior Project, which they called “an organization which James was very passionate about and supported in countless ways.”

The Wounded Warrior Project works to help injured service members in their return to civilian life.

Gandolfini’s body was to driven across the Hudson River into Manhattan by police escort for his funeral on Thursday, which was to be held at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.

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