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Wake held in New Jersey for James Gandolfini

Kristyn Burtt is an IAWTV award-winning host and entertainment reporter. She currently hosts the recap shows for "Dancing With the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance" on AfterBuzz TV and for "True Blood" on GeekNation.

The final goodbye begins

James Gandolfini will be laid to rest this week. The first part of his funeral services began on Wednesday night with his wake in New Jersey.

JamesGandolfiniSopranos

The final goodbye for The Sopranos actor James Gandolfini began on Wednesday night as his family held an invitation-only wake in his hometown of Park Ridge, New Jersey. Family and friends gathered at the Robert Spearing Funeral Home to pay their respects.

Bob Price, whose wife is Gandolfini's cousin, told the NY Daily News, "It's a nightmare for the whole family. It's a horrible, horrible thing, everybody is just devastated. This man was everybody's hero. It's just the worst thing that could have happened."

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Gandolfini passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack on June 19 while vacationing in Rome, Italy with his 13-year-old son Michael. It was Michael who first called for help for his father when he was stricken in the bathroom at his hotel.

The 51-year-old also leaves behind his wife, Deborah Lin, and their 9-month-old daughter, Liliana, who arrived in her baby carrier shielded by a baby blanket and umbrellas to keep the prying eyes of the paparazzi away.

The family has asked for privacy during their time of mourning and fans seemed respectful as they gathered across the street from the funeral home to honor their favorite actor.

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One area resident, Lauri Strauss, told the New York paper, "I'm shocked still. It's really sad. He was only a day older than me."

The funeral home received multiple bouquets of flowers and kept their shades drawn since the wake involved such a high-profile celebrity. Many family members were seen outside in the parking lot hugging and mourning the beloved man.

Family members were not the only ones to honor Gandolfini on Wednesday. The Broadway community saluted one of their own by dimming the lights on the theater marquees for one minute at 8 p.m. EST in Times Square.

His notable stage appearances included the 1992 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire with Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange as well as his 2009 Tony-nominated performance in God of Carnage.

His funeral is set for Thursday at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City at 10 a.m. EST.

Photo credit: WENN.com
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