TAMPA — Brian Shaughnessy attended the Church of Crabby Bill's. He shared the elements — crab claws and draft beer — with other longtime parishioners and studied the latest verses of a Sunday sports page.
He sacrificed his body to two-man beach volleyball behind Crabby Bill's Beach Club, making impossible saves and exquisite sets. He washed off the sand and sweat in Tampa Bay, a weekly full-immersion baptism.
Mr. Shaughnessy, who died Friday at 47, enjoyed simple pleasures and passed on what he had learned to hundreds of abused and neglected children at a nonprofit organization where he worked. He leaves behind a 5-year-old daughter, Teagan.
He lived in a modest home in Carrollwood Village, drove an old Chevrolet Caprice and never paid a bill late. He liked tank tops and flip-flops, driving fast with the music up loud and eating pizza with a knife and fork.
Though he might have looked like a beach bum, Mr. Shaughnessy was an administrator at The Children's Home, a nonprofit organization for children who have had trouble finding suitable placements.
"They are kids who were beaten up so badly they can't open up their eyes," said Hillary Shaughnessy, a social worker at The Children's Home and Mr. Shaughnessy's wife. "Kids who have been let outside in the back yard, the way some people take care of their animals."
Mr. Shaughnessy started 23 years ago as a live-in counselor with a dozen children. For many years he served as a liaison with Hillsborough schools.
"Brian just had one of those calming personalities," said Sandnes Boulanger, the home's clinical services director. "He was a very soothing person. He was always really able to work with these kids, especially kids who were violent and aggressive."
Mr. Shaughnessy grew up in Marco Island, the fifth of six children of one of the area's largest developers — and the only one with curly hair or blue eyes.
"We were all jealous," said sister Bridget Morello, 45.
He was also a standout in an athletic family, the quarterback of his high school football team who played in amateur tennis tournaments. He met Hillary on the job in 1988; they eloped to Washington state in 1995 to spare wedding expenses. (His siblings found out and showed up anyway.)
He opened all of his wife's doors, fluffed her pillow each night and never let a day pass without saying, "I love you."
About a year ago, The Children's Home promoted Mr. Shaughnessy to admissions director. "He was the first face the kids would see. He helped them feel comfortable," Boulanger said.
He was diagnosed with leukemia in fall 2008. By June, the cancer seemed to have gone. Last week he complained of stomach pain and was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he dehydrated rapidly. He died Friday.
Mr. Shaughnessy always said he believed in miracles, and counted his wife and daughter as two of them. Now they are stunned by the sudden absence of a man who lived simply but so well.