|[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]
Obituaries Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 3, 2012
Orin S. L. Smiley
ALTAMONT Orin Smiley was a man who liked a challenge and met many in his life.
He survived a foxhole blast during World War II, went to college as a married man and father, coached wrestling when it was a fledgling sport, and helped found a church.
He died on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at St. Peter’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Albany. He was 87.
“He was a great father and teacher, and really involved in sports,” said his wife of 63 years, Marilyn Smiley. “The kids adored him.” She has been hearing from Guilderland and Mohonasen graduates from across the country “talking about how great he was,” she said.
Mr. Smiley was born in St. Catherine’s, in Ontario, Canada on Feb. 27, 1925, to Harriet (Layo) Smiley and James Smiley. He came to the United States and was raised in Watertown, N.Y. by his aunt and uncle.
Mr. Smiley graduated from Watertown High School where he was a state champion in wrestling. He was unbeaten in three years as a high school wrestler.
He was enlisted in the 1st Canadian Army then joined the American Army and gained United States citizenship. He served in Europe during World War II.
“He landed in Italy and fought through France to Germany,” said his wife. “He was wounded in a foxhole in Germany. There were eight in the foxhole and only two lived.”
Mr. Smiley was sent to a hospital in England to recover, which took nine months. “He had a piece of shrapnel in his back that never came out,” said Mrs. Smiley.
With the Coast Guard after the war, Mr. Smiley was sent to Florida and then New Hampshire to re-open a station that had been closed during the war. It was there that he met the woman who would become his wife, Marilyn Clarke Morse. “I had just graduated from high school,” said Mrs. Smiley. “I lived in Hampton. I met him at the beach.”
They waited two years to marry, until Mr. Smiley was discharged. They were married on Dec. 23, 1947. He got a factory job, and the Smileys bought a house and settled into family life. “He came home one day and said, ‘I can’t do this. I need to go to school,’” Mrs. Smiley recalled.
Mr. Smiley was admitted to Boston University and paid for his tuition with the G.I. Bill. The Smileys sold their house and Mrs. Smiley and the children moved into an apartment in New Hampshire. “I took care of the kids all day and worked in a factory at night,” recalled Mrs. Smiley. “He only came home to New Hampshire on weekends. He was done in just three years.”
Mr. Smiley graduated from Boston University with honors and a stellar athletic record. While a student there, he was given the job of head wrestling coach. Decades later, in 2004, when he was nearly 80, Boston University named an award for him, given to BU wrestlers who have contributed to the sport.
“Wrestling is on firm ground now,” Mr. Smiley said in 2004. “In the middle ’50s, it was like the stepchild of athletics.” He concluded modestly, “I think the award is just because I kept the program going.”
After graduating from Boston University, Mr. Smiley taught for two years in Littleton, N.H., then he taught for a year at a school in northern Vermont before moving to Altamont to teach science at Guilderland and later Mohonasen.
He coached five Suburban Council champions in wrestling.
“I liked the association with the kids,” Mr. Smiley said in 2004. “I got to meet all different types of personalities. The best thing I found in coaching is when kids challenge themselves to do their best when they don’t think they can and they produce wins they didn’t think they could produce.”
Mr. and Mrs. Smiley, who first rented a place in Altamont, bought an old farmhouse with a barn on nine acres on Gardner Road. “It had been neglected for years,” recalled Mrs. Smiley, “but we could see the possibilities.” Their children at the time were in third and sixth grades. “The kids said, ‘Oh, Mom, we’re not going to live there!’” Mrs. Smiley recalled with a chuckle.
Move, they did. Mrs. Smiley’s father, who was a builder, helped with the renovations of the 1888 place. “They want me to leave it and go into a nursing home now,” said Mrs. Smiley. “I’m going to live here as long as I can.”
The place is filled with happy memories for her. Mr. Smiley had long enjoyed handyman chores, including remodeling and renovation projects on the house.
He also liked building model airplanes, and curling with a Schenectady club that he served as president for two years. He had learned how to curl when he was growing up in Watertown.
For 11 years, the Smileys took groups of students from Guilderland and Mohonasen high schools to Europe. They would visit France, Scotland, and Wales. “He used to say, ‘The kids don’t have a problem with the language,’” said Mrs. Smiley who went on to recall how she, who speaks French, would take the students by hovercraft for a lunch in France.
Mr. Smiley, who grew up in the Episcopal Church, would go with his family to St. Andrew’s Church in Albany. The Smileys were instrumental in getting funds to start St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Guilderland where they continued to be members for many years.
Mr. Smiley retired from teaching and coaching in 1983, and then continued his passion for the farmland around his home.
“He was an open person, very friendly for any reason,” Mrs. Smiley concluded of her husband. “Kids like the way he taught. He always accepted people as they were.”
He is survived by his wife, Marilyn Clarke Morse Smiley of Altamont, a native of Hampton, N.H., and his daughter, Brooke, who was born in 1951.
His son, Clarke, born in 1948, was a pilot during the Vietnam War and died in 2004.
A memorial service will be held in three weeks at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, at 5148 Western Ave. with Rev. Steven Scherk officiating. A burial will take place in Fairview Cemetery in Altamont.
Arrangements are by the Glenville Funeral Home in Glenville, N.Y. Online condolences may be left at www.glenvillefuneralhome.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to St. Boniface Episcopal Church, Post Office Box 397, Guilderland, NY 12084.
John A. Westervelt