top of page

John Maestrelli


John Robert Maestrelli, 80, passed away peacefully at home in Piedmont, California on Saturday, January 22, 2022, surrounded by the love and affection of his family. John was born at home on May 11, 1941 in Spring Lake, New Jersey. He was the son of Giordano Bruno and Marie (Russomanno) Maestrelli. He attended Spring Lake Grammar School (now known as HW Mountz School) and Manasquan High School, class of 1959. After graduation, John bought a 1958 Corvette and led a somewhat colorful life on the Jersey Shore (stories redacted), supporting himself with numerous jobs including pin boy at a bowling alley; grocery delivery boy for Casagrande’s Market; pool boy at the South End Pavilion; gas station attendant at Linc Manzi’s Sunoco, and many more. In 1963, he decided that his future would look brighter if he went to college, so he packed up the Corvette and headed to Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. After his sophomore year, he transferred to Utah State University in Logan, where he graduated in 1967 with a BS in Wildlife and Fisheries Management.


John’s first job out of college was as a Research Wildlife Biologist at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. While there, he studied the effects of DDT and other pesticides on the reproduction of birds of prey, which helped lead to the banning of those chemicals from the marketplace. He also worked with captive bald eagles and was successful in breeding them in captivity and releasing them in New England, where the wild eagle population had been decimated by pesticides.


It was at Patuxent where John met a cute young coed from the University of Maryland named Mary Munson. They fell in love and began a happy union that would carry them through the next 54 years. Those years included John’s professional work for the federal government as a wildlife biologist, with projects including wildlife hazards at airports, endangered species protection, and wildlife damage problems. He finished the last 11 years of his career as the USDA State Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Services program, where he oversaw numerous wildlife projects including the relocation of 5,000 nuisance black bears to wild habitat.


John and Mary raised two wonderful daughters, Laura and Teresa, in California and later in Wisconsin. Although he joked that he was constantly outnumbered by the women in his family, he adored all three of his “girls” and was endlessly proud of them. With John’s boundless sense of adventure and love of nature as their guide, the family explored the great outdoors over the years – from campgrounds and National Parks all over the West to their humble family cabin on the edge of Desolation Wilderness in the Sierras.


John‘s zest for life was apparent in his countless curiosities and hobbies, in his tinkering and “MacGyvering” of devices he invented for his home and cars, in his annual hunting and fishing trips, and in his travels to countries around the world including New Zealand & Australia, China, Spain, Southeast Asia, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, the British Isles, South Africa, Tanzania, the Galapagos Islands, and his beloved Italy. He owned and restored his own airplane – a 1941 Taylorcraft – that he and Mary used to fly across the Chesapeake Bay to buy fresh crabs for date nights. After John and Mary retired, they sold their Wisconsin home in 2004 and bought an RV to explore the country, including a 15,000 mile road trip to Alaska where John caught wild halibut and salmon that weighed almost as much as he did. He patiently and scrupulously restored his 1958 Corvette after it was nearly totaled in an accident in 1976 – and he continued to drive it in recent years with a blatant disregard for speed limits on the country roads of Lee County, Florida, where John and Mary have resided for the last 16 years. All of these adventures provided rich material for the stories that John was famous for telling – stories that his family will continue to tell in his memory, though not nearly as well as he did.


John is survived by his loving wife Mary, devoted daughters Laura (Dustin) Maestrelli and Teresa (Todd) McPherson, siblings JoAnn (Frank) Donlon and Raymond Maestrelli, sister-in-law Sara Munson, brother-in-law Mark Munson, the grandchildren he adored: granddaughter Maddie and his two grandsons Dylan Giovanni and Milo John, whose middle names both honor their Pop, and his faithful cat Pumpkin. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers Michael Maestrelli and Richard Maestrelli. A Celebration of Life will be held for John in Fort Myers, Florida on March 12, 2022. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or Ducks Unlimited in his honor.

John’s final years involved facing a menacing foe that was trying to silence him and dim his bright light. But despite Alzheimer’s best efforts, John’s contagious smile, his optimistic outlook, and his zest for life never wavered. He was a one-of-a-kind, and we will miss him tremendously.

bottom of page