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