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Jackson's birthplace mourns the loss of favorite son

Michael Jackson's birthplace of Gary, Indiana mourned their favorite son on Tuesday with tributes, tears and gatherings large and small.

world Updated: Jul 07, 2009 23:25 IST

Michael Jackson's birthplace of Gary, Indiana mourned their favorite son on Tuesday with tributes, tears and gatherings large and small.

A downtown restaurant across the street from the baseball stadium where city leaders will host their own memorial on Friday invited residents to watch coverage of the official service some 2,000 miles away in Los Angeles.

"Michael Jackson is number one, because he broke all the barriers for music," said Ebony Hodge, 23, a waitress at Bennigan's restaurant. "He was able to fuse rock and roll, hip-hop, rhythm and blues. His music had no particular color."

Fans continued to gather at the Jackson family home at 2300 Jackson Street, streaming past the front door and snapping photos. Souvenir vendors were out early in the morning setting up shop.

In the week since Jackson's untimely death, a steady stream of fans have visited the plain, one-story home leaving stuffed animals and flowers in tribute.

Bennigan's manager Joslyn Washington was 15 when Jackson's "Thriller" album came out.

She remembers her brother strutting the streets of Gary in the same kind of shiny, red leather jacket with the puffy shoulders that Jackson made famous in videos and performances.

She said Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 served as an example for all young people who live in the depressed city, which regularly makes the FBI's list of America's 10 most violent cities.

"His legacy is if you have the skill, talent and ability you can take it to the next level," Washington said. "He set that example for all of us."

The Jackson 5 won a city-wide talent contest in Gary in 1965, when Michael was just 6 years old.

The family left the city 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Chicago for good when Michael was 11 after signing a contract with Motown Records.