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Deformed Street Performer Bid Adieu

March 2, 1998 GMT

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ For Celestine Tate Harrington, it was one last ride down her beloved Boardwalk. For loved ones and friends, it was a chance to say goodbye to a woman whose music and courage were an inspiration.

Born with stunted, useless arms and legs she blamed on a botched abortion by her mother, Harrington amazed Boardwalk tourists for years by playing an electric keyboard with her tongue.

She died last week of injuries suffered when her motorized gurney was struck by two cars Feb. 19. She was 42.

``I don’t think the Boardwalk will be the same without her,″ said Barbara Smith, 46, one of 200 mourners who turned out Monday for a funeral procession and memorial service outside Bally’s Park Place Casino Hotel, at one of Harrington’s favorite spots to play.

As sea gulls squawked overhead, one of Harrington’s two daughters, Niya Tate-Ball, 22, left a bouquet of flowers at the spot and broke into tears.

``Why are you crying, Mom? You all right, Mom?″ said 2-year-old Malik Ball.

In 1976, Harrington won the right to raise her own daughter when she demonstrated in court how she could change a diaper using only her mouth. Relatives and friends helped her raise her daughters.

Teary-eyed onlookers dabbed at their eyes as the procession headed to Shiloh Temple Pentecostal Assembly, where a nine-hour viewing was planned.

``I used to call her the Miracle Woman,″ said Carl Hayes, 73, of Atlantic City.

``Looking at her, I knew there is a God. When you consider what she achieved under the conditions she was in, it’s amazing.″