Mentor “Duke” Addicks, Jr. was always curious about the bit of Cherokee in his blood. As a child, he visited his grandmother’s farm in the mountains of northwestern Georgia and discovered his native heritage. There, in the barn yard, while watching his grandmother brush her hair, Addicks began to harness the power of Indian lore and legends.
If the next day, the boy could repeat the stories told by his grandmother, she would reward him by telling another.
From then on, Addicks developed a keen curiosity about the world that brought about “a million” hobbies. Most of his friends and family, however, will remember him most for his powerful gift for storytelling.
“He was a true Renaissance man,” said his wife, Jeannette Bach. “He had such wide-ranging interests and activities, and in some ways, they’re all connected.”
The “man of a million hobbies” — storyteller, naturalist, eagle handler, fur trade reenactor, historian, poet, and musician — died Nov. 12 after a short illness. He was 76.
Addicks was born and raised in Minneapolis. As a young boy, he pined for the outdoors and was active with the Boy Scouts, achieving Eagle Scout rank. In his adult life, he volunteered at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn., where he learned to hold an eagle on his fist and field questions about them from the public.
“He was quite an accomplished naturalist,” said Tom Todd, a childhood friend. “I was always impressed at the breadth and depth of his knowledge.”
Except for this one, burning memory: “I camped and hiked with Duke all over the place,” Todd said. “In the Ozarks we sat briefly together on a mound that Duke belatedly identified as a fire-ant nest.”
After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a law degree, Addicks spent most of his professional life representing local governments before Congress and the Minnesota State Legislature on behalf of the Association of Minnesota Counties, the city of Minneapolis and the League of Minnesota Cities. Duke served as the first legislative counsel at the League of Minnesota Cities and focused on lobbying until 1983. His legislative efforts led to the 1980 law that authorized the formation of the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust. Duke left the league in 1983 and went into private practice and also worked for the city of Minneapolis.
Addicks also became involved in various ways with local tribes, particularly the Dakota.
Many referred to him as the “Minnesota master of real ghost stories” for his passion for stories of all kinds and his ability to make them come alive.
Addicks took real experiences from his life or of the people he knew — like the time his barber told him about the child ghost that greeted her and her husband in their new home — and massaged them into tales that began with a slice of intrigue, rippled with little pools of insight throughout, and ended poignantly.
“He was always interested in other people — that’s how he got his stories,” Bach said. “As a lobbyist, that’s how he found out what it was that people wanted. He was a very good listener.”
Addicks put on his final hobby hat as a street musician. He could play the bagpipes, Native American flute, mandolin, upright electric bass, piano, concertina, harmonica and more.
“One of his latest goals was to sit on a corner and play music and talk to people,” Bach said. “It was a way of sharing his stories.”
Addicks left a body of work in the form of published poems and recordings of his stories. “He gave us permission to tell any of his stories,” Bach said. “He felt they’re stories that should be shared.”
Addicks was preceded in death by his parents and infant sister, Rubye. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his three children and two grandchildren. Services have been held.