William A. Smiley Jr.
1924 - 2020
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William, A. Smiley, Jr.

Wausau - William "Bill" Allen Smiley, Jr. (often called Smiles by his track and cross country runners) was so much to so many: a teacher, a coach, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. For almost a century, he combined a zest for adventure with integrity and dedication. In and beyond Wisconsin, he will be remembered by students, runners, community members, and family. He died early on March 26, 2020, just two months short of his 96th birthday.

Born on May 30, 1924, in Chicago to Dr. William Allen Smiley and Anne M. Smiley, Bill Jr. relished summers spent "in the country" at Wabigama, the family cottage near Traverse City, Michigan, which inspired his interest in nature and sports. He loved all sports and was a lifelong Cubs fan from the day he first attended a game at Wrigley Field as a child. He became an avid Packer and Badger fan after moving to Wisconsin.

Bill left Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood behind when he joined the U.S. Army in 1942. He trained to be a paratrooper, fought floods in Louisiana and Arkansas, served in England as an engineer, helped build the concrete "mulberry" docks that supported the D-Day invasions on the Normandy beaches, and then helped construct prisoner-of-war camps across France. Later he transferred to the 69th Infantry Division and served in combat outside Leipzig, Germany. His family enjoyed hearing stories about his service, especially about visits from his father (billeted nearby as a doctor running army field hospitals under General Patton). Four decades later, he returned to show the beaches to his grandchildren. In 2011, he was proud to travel to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight for World War II veterans.

After the war, while attending Grinnell College, Bill met Jean Nesbitt of Rensselaer Indiana, who would be his wife of more than 67 years until her death in April, 2018. He ran track and cross-country at Grinnell. After graduation, Bill completed a master's degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and they moved to Wausau in 1951.

In Wausau, Bill taught biology to generations of freshmen at Wausau High School (later Wausau East) until his retirement in 1991. Following his passion for sports, he coached track, cross-country, and swimming, and refereed football and basketball games throughout the state. In 1956 he founded the annual Wausau Invitational cross country run, which continues to this day and was later renamed in his honor as the Smiley Invitational. He was inducted into the Wausau East High School Hall of Fame in the initial class of 2015.

Outside school hours, Bill was an active member of the Wausau community. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Wausau, founding and managing the Little Olympics. For many summers he supervised the Wausau swimming pools.

Before retirement, Bill and Jean frequently took their boys on extended road trips. After retirement, they travelled the globe ultimately exploring 122 countries. Their adventures started with Australia and eventually spanned all six inhabited continents and viewing Antarctica by ship. Memorable trips included Galapagos, Libya, Syria, and Central Asia.

He and Jean took their grandchildren on trips, to China, Europe, Canada, and sites across the US. He made a travel scrapbook for each grandchild, annotated with memories of these trips. They also traveled to attend weddings of three grandchildren: California for Keith and Emily; Michigan for Mary and Ben; and in 2017, to New Delhi, India, for Will and Madhavi, which was their final international trip.

Bill was a talented photographer and continued his passion for teaching by sharing travel slide shows with residents of area nursing homes. Often he was older than the audience members.

Bill is survived by his sons William A. Smiley III of Portage, WI and E. Thomas Smiley (Jan) of Fort Mill, SC; by Bill's children (with Ann Smiley of Middleton, WI) Will Smiley (Madhavi Devasher) of Durham, NH and Mary Smiley Schoener (Ben Schoener) of Fenton, MI; by Tom's children Emma J. Smiley of Durham, NC and Keith B. Smiley (Emily) of San Francisco, CA; and by a great-grandchild, Will and Madhavi's daughter Anika Devasher Smiley. In the months before his death Bill most liked looking at photos of Anika. He was charmed by her and never stopped smiling, saying, "she's a keeper."

Although Bill's death was not related to the pandemic, the current circumstances render any kind of public memorial impossible. If circumstances change, the family would like to schedule an event at a later time. If you wish to donate in Bill's honor, contributions may be sent to the charity of your choice in his memory. Your comments with your memories are welcome.

Mid Wisconsin Cremation Society is assisting the family at this time. Online condolences may be expressed at HonorOne.com


To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Wausau Daily Herald from Apr. 8 to Apr. 12, 2020.
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Memories & Condolences
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23 entries
April 17, 2020
Jim Stephany
April 16, 2020
As part of the Wausau East class of 1987, Mr. Smiley was my high school biology teacher and was also my cross country coach for 4 years. I'll never forget the countless hours he spent working with our team. He was a wonderful role model for myself and all the other lives he touched. One year our team had T shirts made for our team that said "I run miles for Smiles". I recall him driving alongside us in his old jeep telling us how fast we were running. He was a kind, gentle man who also inspired and pushed us to be our very best. His influence on future generations was profound. I will not forget this man. Thank you Mr. Smiley...
Kari Sheldon
April 16, 2020
He was truly a legend, positively touching the lives of thousands of people in many ways. I had him as my coach for cross country and track in the mid to late 80's. I wasn't the most talented, but he drove home the importance of sticking with things through tenacious but smart choices to get positive results, while being a humble human being. I carried those qualities since then throughout my life which helped bring me success and happiness many times. My mother had him as a biology teacher in the late 50's and she would tell me how she always looked up to him as a great man, and was thrilled when I had him as a coach. He was inspirational to say the least. What an honor to have known such a great human being.
Thomas Dudek
April 16, 2020
I recently learned of the death of Mr. Smiley in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal. He was my teacher and track and cross country coach at Wausau High School in the early 1960's. My late father also taught at that school for many years. I was not aware of many of the details of Mr. Smiley's life until I read his obituary. He was a kind and humble person. It was my good fortune to have known him.
Richard Dike
April 15, 2020
I was blessed to know Bill for most my life. He was a wonderful friend to my father, Greg Zurn. And I had many opportunities to work with Bill in the Little Olympics and the Smiley Invite. My thoughts and prayers to his family.
Lori Meurett
April 15, 2020
I ran fort Smiley in 1962-64. I was not his best runner. I knew that I often disappointed him, but he was always gracious and encouraging. He made you want to do better. He always remembered your name. Thirty or forty years after you ran for him, he would approach you by name and give you a friendly greeting even though you were probably one of the runners he would like to forget. He will be missed. If you look up the words "fine human" in the dictionary, there will be Smiley's picture.
Jim Seidel
April 14, 2020
"Mr. Smiley" was my home room teacher in 1958. I also had him for biology. He was one of the nicest, most caring people I ever met. So very sorry for your loss.
Bonnie Pils
April 14, 2020
Rest in peace Uncle Bill. Thank you for serving your country and being part of "The Greatest Generation".
Our condolences to Cousins Bill and Tom.
Carl and Judy Curtis
Carl Curtis
April 13, 2020
Our condolences to the Bill Smiley Family.
Bill and I shared the same science office
and at times the class room for 24 years.
He was a gracious and honorable col-
league. Bill, may you rest in peace.

Matthew Brady
April 13, 2020
On behalf of the Bowers family, I extend our deep sympathy to Bill's sons and extended family. He was a gem of a man, full of integrity, wisdom, and had that chuckle. I was lucky enough to be at Wausau East at the beginning of WIAA Girls’ Cross Country, prior to that he let me practice with the boys’ team for a few years. He was a great proponent of girls’ athletics, and so encouraging of my running career. He also coached my brother John, shared a love of running with our father, Pat Bowers, and was my homeroom teacher. He leaves a legacy far beyond what he may have imagined.
Betsy Aarsvold
April 13, 2020
I had the pleasure of having Bill as my neighbor for a number of years. He always took time to chit-chat.
Thank you, Bill. Rest in peace.
Doug Espeland
April 13, 2020
My heartfelt condolences to the family, and to all whose lives he deeply touched. As a cousin-in-law, I only brushed shoulders with the "senior Smileys" a few times. I find myself wishing our paths had crossed more often as I read about and reflect upon his life. What a wonderful pair he and Jean were.
Jane Leland
April 12, 2020
My deepest condolences to the entire family. I knew Smiles my entire life, as my father was a teacher in the District, including at East, and officiated track/CC meets for decades. I started attending those meets as a kid in the 1960's and met Bill then. He and my dad were very good friends.
When my teams came to the Smiley Invite I always made it point to find him just to say hello. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed.
Tim Gifford
April 12, 2020
I have many fond memories of growing up just down the street from the Smileys. Some of the nicest people Ive ever met. My condolences to your family.
Courtney Day
April 12, 2020
What an awesome person, spent time on the yellow school bus going to and from track meets in the late 60's making cheese and baloney sandwiches. A true Wausau treasure.
April 12, 2020
There are no words to describe Mr. Smiley. He was a legend at Wausau High and that is all I can say. I don't think there would be anyone that didn't know who he was, I remember him always being outside with the track team, always in his gym shorts and having a whistle around his neck. I didn't have him for biology, I had Mrs. Kickland, but all my friends had him as a teacher and said he was wonderful. I am sure his name will be well known for years to come, quite the epitaph I must say, to be remembered and loved by so many!
Joanna Zietlow-Hogan
April 12, 2020
As a member of East's Class of 1987, I had Mr. Smiley as a teacher and later had the pleasure of interviewing him many times as a sportswriter for the Wausau Daily Herald (also as editor of the East school newspaper The Skyrocket). He was always such a kind and humble man, generous with his time. He had a profound impact of thousands of students (as well as friends & colleagues) and set an example that they could all take with them into the future to make the world a better, more kind place. Thank you for sharing him with us. He is a legend, a historic Wisconsin figure who will never be forgotten. My condolences to you all. I hope the memories shared on this page will comfort you at your time of grief since you're unable to receive the hugs and hear the stories in person during this challenging time of coronavirus social distancing. God's blessings to you all.
Dean Witter
April 12, 2020
Such a wonderful tribute to such an amazing man. I remember Mr. Smiley from Wausau East High School oh so many years ago. Such a legacy and such a long wonderful life he had. Condolences to his family.
Grace Klopotek
April 11, 2020
Mr. Smiley was my homeroom teacher at WHS, and I have thought of him fondly over the years. Always a positive influence, encouraging and energetic. He affected many students over the years. My deepest sympathies.
Linda Lawrence
April 11, 2020
All good things must end and certainly, Bill's life was good. He was among the top ten of the most kind, gentle and understanding people I have ever known. He was patience personified when coaching in the summer baseball team play at Grant school to being a fellow team member in church league fast pitch. He was a man among men and an inspiration. Rest In Peace. May the perpetual light shine on you.
Roger Schaefer
April 11, 2020
Our sincere condolences to Bill's family. We enjoyed reading the memory of Bill you have shared. Dale enjoyed sports officiating with Bill when he taught at Wausau East High School. May your fond memories bring you comfort at this time of sadness.

Dale and Jean Langbehn
Jean & Dale Langbehn
April 4, 2020
Coach Smiley - My most memorable times from high school are having been on the cross country and track teams with you and Coach Dix. Thank you for your guidance, humor and for pushing us. I haven't seen you in over 50 years, but I can still see your smiling face clearly. Be at peace my friend.
March 31, 2020
Rest In Peace Mr. Smiley, it was a pleasure knowing. My condolences to his family
Araceli Carrazco
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