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Friends, family mourn Ledger at service

Sun., Feb. 10, 2008

PERTH, Australia – Heath Ledger’s family, his former fiancée, Michelle Williams, and Australia’s entertainment elite bade the actor farewell Saturday at a private memorial service in his hometown.

Family members returned to Perth last week to bury Ledger, who died in his Manhattan apartment at age 28 from a prescription drug overdose on Jan. 22. The family attended a memorial service in Los Angeles last weekend.

Several hundred people gathered at a Perth girls school, Penrhos College, for a memorial that mixed personal tributes, modern rock and traditional Aboriginal music.

Williams, who became romantically involved with Ledger while filming “Brokeback Mountain,” arrived at the service with Ledger’s parents in a six-car motorcade. Wearing black sunglasses and a white dress with black trim, she clutched the arm of Ledger’s older sister, Kate.

The 75-minute service kicked off with the performance of a didgeridoo, a traditional Aboriginal wind instrument. Rock songs were also played – Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd and Neil Young’s “Old Man,” according to a program of the service.

Organizers also showed footage from Ledger’s films and of 2-year-old Matilda, his daughter with Williams.

The event drew members of the Australian entertainment industry, where Ledger got his start.

Fellow Australian-turned-Hollywood star Cate Blanchett, who starred with Ledger in the Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There,” recalled their time spent together in New York and Los Angeles.

Other speakers included his parents, sister and Neil Armfield, who directed Ledger in his last Australian film, “Candy,” released in 2006.

Ledger’s father, Kim, said the service would be followed by a private funeral in Perth.

“It’s a pretty sad time. We’re finding it difficult to cope by ourselves, let alone cope with everybody around the world,” he said.

“Having said that, we do really appreciate the outpouring and the emotional support from all over the globe,” he said.


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