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 Celestine <I>Tate</I> Harrington

Celestine Tate Harrington

Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 25 Feb 1998 (aged 41–42)
Atlantic City, Atlantic County, New Jersey, USA
Burial West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 25202411 · View Source
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Celestine Tate Harrington, a quadriplegic who wowed Boardwalk tourists for years playing an electric organ with her tongue, died Feb. 25 from injuries suffered in a traffic accident in Atlantic City. Harrington was struck by two cars Feb. 19 as she traveled down the middle of the street on her gurney. She was 42.

She was born with stunted, useless arms and legs. Her teenage mother had attempted to have an abortion, but the procedure went wrong and instead Celeste was born with limbs that stopped working below her elbows and knees. She lived, performed and traveled face down on a motorized hospital-style gurney, steering it by using her head.

In 1974, she wed a nursing home aide at the rehabilitation clinic where she lived at the time. They had one child, a daughter. Her husband's death a year later led the courts to seek custody, but the 4-foot-10 inch, 191-pound woman won the right to raise her own daughter when she demonstrated in court how she could change a diaper using only her mouth.

In 1984 she began working the Boardwalk, usually along a wall of Bally's Park Place Hotel & Casino, using a slot machine bucket to collect donations from those who wandered by and stopped to watch her play "Amazing Grace," "Born Free" and "Stormy Weather" on her battery-operated keyboard. Her favorite tunes, she said, are "We Shall Overcome" and "The Impossible Dream."

She was cited dozens of times by police for begging, soliciting, making noise or not having a mercantile license. But in 1989, city officials agreed to relax insurance requirements for her and create a special "event" permit under which she could perform legally.

In 1996 she published a book, "Some Crawl and Never Walk."
Celestine typed her autobiography with her tongue. It was published due to the financial generosity of boxing champion Evander Holyfield. He had met Celestine on the boardwalk by chance, and was inspired by her story.

She is survived by two daughters of her own and two adopted children.

  • Maintained by: TANGIE COLE
  • Originally Created by: eobfindagrave
  • Added: 11 Mar 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 25202411
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  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Celestine Tate Harrington (1956–25 Feb 1998), Find A Grave Memorial no. 25202411, citing Rolling Green Memorial Park, West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by TANGIE COLE (contributor 47956490) .