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Sidney Poitier's Family to Hold Private Memorial Service for Late Actor Due to COVID

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Sidney Poitier's family is holding a private memorial service for the actor following his death earlier this month.

In a statement to PEOPLE, the family cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for keeping the service private, but noted that there may be a more public event in the future.

"The Poitier family so appreciates the wonderful outpouring of love, support and affection for Sidney," the statement reads. "There have been many inquiries about an event to honor his life. At this time, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a private memorial service has been arranged for the family with the possibility of a more public memorial service should the virus' numbers subside in the near future."

"In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor him are encouraged to donate to some of his favorite organizations and charities including The Children's Defense Fund, The United Negro College Fund, and the Alzheimer's Association," the family added.

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier

Jason Kempin/Getty

RELATED: Dionne Warwick Recalls How She First Met Sidney Poitier: 'Actually, I Stalked Him'

Poitier died on Thursday, Jan. 6, at the age of 94. According to a copy of his death certificate obtained by PEOPLE last week, his cause of death was heart failure. The document also listed that he had suffered from Alzheimer's dementia and prostate cancer over the years, and that Poitier would be cremated.

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Poitier was an acclaimed actor and director as well as an activist. In 1964, he became the first Black actor to win the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the 1963 film Lilies of the Field.

Beyond acting, Poitier was an important figure in the civil rights movement, often working alongside his close friend of nearly 80 years, Harry Belafonte. They helped organize the March on Washington and plan Martin Luther King Jr.'s memorial after his assassination.

Sidney Poitier during The 74th Annual Academy Awards
Sidney Poitier during The 74th Annual Academy Awards

SGranitz/WireImage Sidney Poitier

RELATED GALLERY: Sidney Poitier's Incredible Life and Career in Photos

Tributes memorializing the trailblazing star poured in from celebrities everywhere upon news of his death. Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Will Smith and Barack Obama were among the many people who issued statements about the impact Poitier had on their lives.

One of his daughters, Sydney, also paid tribute to her late dad in an emotional statement posted to Instagram.

"There are no words for this. No real way to prepare for this. No prose beautiful enough, no speech eloquent enough to capture the essence of my dad," she wrote in part, adding that his accomplishments "quite literally changed the landscape for everyone who came after him."

"We thought we were taking care of him. I see now that the truth is he was still taking care of us," she later added, describing his last few years. "He was reminding us, particularly in these uncertain times, of the power of GOODNESS. That even when the body is fading and things seem to be falling apart around us, the goodness remains."

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