Anthony Minnick never stopped surprising his friends.

“He was like the layers of an onion,” said Stephan Reynolds of Hopkins. “Things you didn’t necessarily know he was capable of or passionate about all of a sudden were revealed.” Such as when Minnick built an addition onto his home. “I was like, ‘You know how to do that?’ ”

Likewise when Minnick became a gondolier in Minneapolis, Miami and Stillwater, Reynolds had to laugh: “Didn’t see that coming.”

Minnick was 53 when he died of a heart attack on Nov. 19. A memorial service will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 4343 Nicollet Av. S. in Minneapolis.

People toss out “Renaissance man” about anyone who has two hobbies these days, but Minnick epitomized the term. He was a web designer, a gourmet cook, a woodworker and furniture builder, a stay-at-home father, maker of maple syrup and more.

But it was a lighthearted line on a résumé that once nabbed him an interview — and job — as a web designer at the Minnesota Department of Health. Aiming to characterize his work at Al’s Breakfast as more than dishwasher and cook, he came up with “entertainment director.” Who could resist?

Randi Welhaven, his wife of 27 years, said he had a way of catching someone’s eye. They married four months after they met. “We got married in a fever,” she said.

Six months later, she was pregnant with the first of their two sons. Minnick stayed home for 12 years raising their boys. “He was the only fella on the block,” Welhaven said. “He always cooked and cleaned, that was his thing — all that Al’s Breakfast training. He’d bake bread weekly, and make people birthday cakes.”

Minnick cut an imposing figure — everyone noted his huge hands and feet — and he liked to appear intimidating until people caught on to the joke, she said. He also was “so incredibly stoic” last year when Welhaven was fighting cancer. “He took care of me and just did everything.” She recovered, “but we thought that was our worst year ever.”

Anthony James Minnick was born in Sept. 19, 1963, in Red Wing. From the start, he began to accumulate a variety of skills, mostly self-taught.

The gondola business was a case in point. He worked in the mid-1980s for a company with a gondola on Lake of the Isles “and became obsessed,” Welhaven said. When the company moved to Miami, so did he “and ended up guiding a boat with Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson when they were dating. ”

He returned to Minnesota as a gondolier in Stillwater. But other ventures beckoned, along with fatherhood.

In 2008, when the boys were grown, he launched PegLeg Furniture, using reclaimed barn wood and selling his work at the Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul, and to various local businesses.

The pursuit caused Reynolds to marvel once again: “You know how to do that?”

“He definitely was a Renaissance man, but we didn’t know, because he wouldn’t talk a big game,” he said.

“In fact, this is the first friend I’ve lost where social media played such a part in celebrating and remembering. Seeing all these wonderful posts and tributes about the people he came in contact with — so many of them have furniture he’s made.”

Indeed, Welhaven said she’s printed out 52 pages of tweets and Facebook posts to draw from for his memorial service. A private interment is planned next sugar season at Wildwood, his beloved sugarbush, where he’d tap maple trees for syrup.

Along with Welhaven and their sons Travis (Josette Magiid Anjeni-Equay Aanakwad-Croud) and Manton (Lucy Claire Pipkin), all of Minneapolis, he is survived by his stepmother Connie Minnick, and stepbrothers Darren Asleson (Jenny) and Keith Asleson.