No one is sure how exactly Milt "Beaver" Adams got his nickname. Not even Milt.
But as it turns out, the nickname is a suitable image for a man whose prodigious energy and gift for industry helped aspiring authors put word to bound paper.
Adams, the founder of Beaver's Pond Press, died Nov. 18 of complications from several strokes. He was 84.
With a sizable overbite, Adams may have resembled a beaver. In fact, Adams' large front teeth prevented him for becoming a military pilot because the oxygen mask could not fit over his face, said daughter Susan Adams Loyd.
But Adams embraced the image and ultimately built a brand around it, mentoring countless writers through the independent publishing company he founded at the age of 70.
"He was a chatty person," Loyd said. "That's why 'Beaver' worked so well for him. It just stuck."
Born in 1928, Adams was raised by his grandparents in south Minneapolis. He attended Washburn High School and the University of Minnesota where he graduated with a degree in economics.
Shortly after marrying his wife, Jean, in 1952, Adams enlisted in the Air Force and served in the Korean War as a first lieutenant.
Once the war concluded, Adams worked in sales and marketing at Gold Bond Stamps, where he was mentored by founder Curt Carlson. Gold Bond eventually grew into the hotel and hospitality giant Carlson.
In 1970, Adams founded his own advertising agency called Adams & Others, where he created large print ads, which eventually grew into mini-books and corporate reports. Through this work, he noticed that writers, even those with well-crafted manuscripts, often couldn't get published by traditional outlets. And vanity presses didn't offer much more than a printing job.
Adams thought "Geez, this process is not real defined," Loyd said. "He had a strong sense of what independent publishing would look like. He wanted to find ways to cut through the red tape."
Adams launched Beaver's Pond Press in 1997 and the company soon established a reputation for working closely with first-time authors.
"I know how this sounds," Adams told the Star Tribune in 2007, "but I know that Beaver's Pond is my purpose in life. It is what I was meant to do."
Among the company's most notable books: "Ruby's Tales" by Patrick Bettendorf, "Garage Logic" by Joe Soucheray, and "Minnesota North Stars, History and Memories with Lou Nanne" by Bob Showers. Barnes & Noble named Showers' literary debut its No.1 regional book in 2007, beating out works from Al Franken and Martha Stewart.
"I had no idea what was involved in writing the book," Showers said. Adams "was very down to earth and honest with me. He did a good job in keeping me grounded and relieving a lot of my anxiety."
Adams loved mentoring authors so much that he continued to do it even after strokes robbed him of his vision and hearing, Loyd said.
"People have these fancy tombstones so people remember them," Adams told the Star Tribune. "I don't need a tombstone. I have all these books."
In addition to his wife and his daughter Susan, Adams is survived by another daughter, Kay, of Albuquerque, N.M., and son Peter of Cottage Grove.
Visitation will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, at Washburn-McReavy Funeral Home, 5000 W. 50th St. in Edina. A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Friday, at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 4439 W. 50th St. in Edina.
Thomas Lee • 612-673-4113