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Elephant Groomer Has Circus Funeral

August 10, 2000

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ It may not be the greatest show on earth, but an event under the big top this weekend figures to be worthy of P.T. Barnum: a memorial for a circus elephant groomer whose body was frozen when he died three months ago so his friends could attend the funeral.

The sideshows will include circus music, food and even an elephant-drawn wagon carrying the casket. In the center ring, the main attraction will be Albert ``Shorty″ Sharp, who stood 4-feet, 7-inches tall when he wasn’t on his tiptoes grooming pachyderms.

Sharp, who spent 50 years in the circus, died May 12 of heart failure while traveling through Wisconsin with George Carden Circus International.

``My circus was out on the road when Shorty passed away and only a few of his friends would have made the funeral,″ said ringmaster and owner George Carden. So he decided to freeze Sharp’s body at a Springfield funeral home until all of his friends could come.

Now, close to 100 people are expected Saturday under the big top at Carden’s winter quarters north of Springfield. Afterward, Sharp’s body will be taken to a cemetery on the elephant-drawn wagon.

``This is not so much a funeral as it is a celebration to say `thank you’ to Shorty for his dedication,″ Carden said Thursday. ``Shorty was a little man with a great big heart.″

Like most circus employees, Carden said, Sharp was completely dedicated to his work.

Sharp groomed elephants for circuses in Florida and Texas, and even tended to Bimbo, a water-skiing elephant who appeared in a 1950s TV series called ``Circus Boy.″

``In the circus, there is no such thing as calling in sick or getting tired, the show must always go on,″ Carden said. ``Shorty was always there. He had no family, so he lived and breathed the elephants.″

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