Mark Garrity Shea, an 11-year-old with a naturalist's curiosity in the world beyond his Baltimore County back yard, died Tuesday after he was attacked by a pack of hyenas while on safari with his mother in Botswana.
Known as Garrit, he was a lean, freckle-faced boy with a keen interest in the natural world and a collector's eye for its treasures. In a bedroom at his father's home, he kept a small shelf to display his trophies, including an elephant tusk, a whale tooth and, his favorite, a bear claw from a camping trip in New Mexico.
Garrit spied the stars through his telescope and collected rocks, too. But he loved animals, large and small. He was the proud owner of three birds, three dogs, several lizards and a pair of emus.
He devised an unusual exercise routine for his rather plump dachshunds, Shotzie and Ziggy. "He loved to ride his go-cart around the field so his dachshunds would lose weight," said Bobbie Rasin, a neighbor old enough to be the boy's grandmother but a pal nonetheless.
Rasin, who also owns two dachshunds and lived next door to Garrit's family, said Garrit would often visit her after school, arriving in his go-cart with his dogs scampering behind him. "I'm going to miss him that way."
A pupil at Fort Garrison Elementary School in Stevenson, Garrit excelled in school and read voraciously. He especially liked the animal fantasy series known as Redwall.
He graduated from elementary school in the spring and looked forward to attending St. Paul's School on Falls Road in the fall.
During family vacations, Garrit traveled to the American Southwest, Australia, Mexico and the Caribbean as well as Africa. He went on safari last year with his mother and brother, visiting game parks and villages in Africa. He and his mother were visiting the Merani Game Reserve in Botswana at the time of Garrit's death.
Garrit played soccer and baseball. He also played tennis regularly at the Greenspring Racquet Club. But his current favorite sport was ice hockey. He played goalie with the Baltimore Youth Hockey league and as a member of the Delaware Chiefs travel team.
His sports collectibles included an autographed hockey puck from Washington Capitals goalie Jim Carey. But he was not possessive about his treasures. When he won stuffed animals on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, he often gave them to other children. When he recently scored several players' hockey sticks at a Washington Capitals game, he gave one to another fan and one to a little girl sitting near him.
"He was the gentle spirit," said Rachel Garrity, a great aunt.
Garrit is survived by his mother, Molly Bruce Jacobs of Brooklandville, and father, Mark R. Shea of Lutherville; a brother, Bradford Shea; and two grandmothers, Molly Bruce Jacobs of Stevenson, and Margaret Garrity Shea of Worcester, Mass.
A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. Friends can visit at Henry W. Jenkins & Sons, 4905 York Road, tomorrow between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be sent to the Sierra Club-Maryland chapter, 7338 Baltimore Ave., Suite 1A, College Park 20740, and the Hydrocephalus Association, a research and support organization for those suffering from the neurological defect, at 870 Market St., Suite 705, San Francisco, Calif. 94102.