SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Albert "Shorty" Sharp spent more than 50 of his 82 years caring for circus elephants. On Saturday, the big pachyderms were as involved in Sharp's funeral as they were in his life.
The imposing Broadway Bo opened the outdoor service by pounding on a drum with a mallet held in his trunk. The smaller Buddy brought it to a close, pulling Sharp's casket on a cart to the gravesite.
Sharp died May 12 of heart failure while traveling with the circus in Wisconsin. His body was frozen so his friends could attend his funeral when the circus took a break from the road. He had no living relatives.
The 4-foot-7 Sharp came to work as an elephant handler for circus owner George Carden's father about 25 years ago and stayed on as caretaker at the headquarters of George Carden Circus International after he retired.
About 200 people attended the memorial service held there Saturday. One woman stopped to tuck a small stuffed elephant into Sharp's open casket.
Most of Sharp's possessions were on display in front of a stage built at one end of the tent where the service was held: his collection of elephant figurines, his white-fringed leather jacket and black cowboy hat, and the golf cart he used to zip around the Carden grounds.
The rest remained in Sharp's off-season home, a small corrugated-metal house a few yards away.
"It will continue to stay marked 'Shorty's Place,"' Carden said, referring to a sign on the fence around the house. "Kind of like a little museum."