Danny Wayne “Dan” Maestri, 74, of Fayetteville, died Sunday, January 6, 2019. He was born May 2, 1944 in Greenwood, Arkansas, to the late Allen and Ruth Lewis Maestri.
Dan was a teacher, inventor, pilot, entrepreneur, and baker. A graduate of Greenwood High and the University of Arkansas, his love of teaching led him to Springdale where he taught high school chemistry. His love of science led him to Ralston Purina as a diagnostic laboratory manager developing vaccines and mechanisms for the safe handling and consumption of poultry. His clever inventions promoted him to regional quality assurance director and a subsequent risk management position at Hudson Foods, where he created a self-funded health insurance plan for their employees. This was so successful he began creating plans for other companies until venturing out on his own to start Risk Management Counsel in Bentonville. There, he persuaded Sam Walton to self-fund Wal-Mart’s health insurance while his company managed their claims. Risk Management would eventually administer programs for 450,000 participants nationwide. It was during this time he developed a passion for flying and obtained his helicopter license. Always turning a passion into a business, he started a helicopter company to escort businessmen to regional destinations. His clients included Bill Clinton and former Razorback coach, Lou Holtz.
Risk management led him to Kentucky, but it was there he fell in love again with teaching. He became the science department head at Christian Academy of Louisville, teaching physics, chemistry, biology, and anatomy. There, he stumbled upon a bread recipe and an old yeast starter he inherited from a friend. This began a lifelong passion for bread making. After a brief stint in North Carolina, he returned to Northwest Arkansas spending his final years teaching and selling his bread at farmer’s markets and local restaurants. His last venture with POP’s (PzeroP) Southern Sourdough Bread was a labor of love sealing his legacy as a baker. His best returns came when giving away bread to friends, family, and strangers. His final days were spent reminiscing with his children as his body failed to keep up with his brilliant mind.
He is survived by five children, Dana Renfrow and husband Todd of Bentonville, Dustin Maestri and wife Jamie of Springdale, Devon Maestri and wife Courtney of Columbus, Ohio, Dani Madison and husband Dierek of Gravette, Shalane Adkinson and husband Travis of Louisville, Kentucky; and 22 grandchildren, Hayden, Hayley (Danny), Reagan, Ryan, Elli, Emma, Katelyn (Dillon), Madelyn, Grant, Garrett, Will, Miller, Mallory, Laurel, Drew, Drake, Darbi, Jordan, Harlin, Judah, Shiloh and Micah.
He was preceded in death by two brothers, Allen, in infancy, and Mike Maestri.
A memorial service is being planned for later in the summer.