Jan 29th 1931 - Jul 24th 2012
Arlene Ellen Smiley was a woman who believed that whatever one does, it should be to the best of their ability. Intelligent and artistic, she was talented in many ways, and always set high standards for herself. Her greatest efforts, however, were reserved for her beloved family. She cared deeply for her husband and her children, and was never happier than when taking care of those she loved.
Arlene was born on January 29, 1931, to proud parents Ottomar and Mary (Taylor) Sting. The Sting family lived in Gagetown, Michigan, where Ottomar and Mary earned a living as farmers. Arlene grew up with three siblings: Jim, Margie and John. Arlene often helped out on the farm, especially during the busy season. She had fond memories of hoeing beans, corn, and sugar beets with her siblings, when Ottomar would delight his children by telling all kinds of stories, some from memory and some of his own invention. In the evenings, Arlene and Margie did the supper dishes, while their brothers helped Ottomar with the milking. After work was done, the family loved singing together and listening to radio shows such as The Green Hornet, The Squeaking Door, and The Shadow.
When the time came for Arlene to go to school, she attended Grant School, a one-room schoolhouse in Owendale, Michigan. She and her siblings had many adventures as they walked to and from school every day. At one point, another kid was picking on Arlene’s little brother – she responded by decking the kid with her lunch pail!
Faith was an important part of young Arlene’s life, and she grew up attending services every Sunday. As a teenager, she gave her life to the Lord during an evangelistic service in a tent.
Arlene was very artistic, and as a teenager she became a talented seamstress. She often made her siblings’ Halloween costumes, a tradition she would carry on for her own children in later years. In addition to her high school courses, she also enrolled in a correspondence course from an art school. Her creations were beautiful, and she always received good grades.
After graduating from high school in 1945, Arlene’s first job was as a nanny and housekeeper in Owendale. She later found a job in Pigeon, Michigan, as a telephone switchboard operator. In those days, when they answered the phone, the operators would say “Operator, please.” One day, Arlene and her co-workers decided to say “bumblebees” instead of the usual phrase. Much to their amusement, after a whole day no one had noticed the difference!
It wasn’t long before Arlene met the young man who would change her life forever – Alton Whitney Smiley. Arlene met Al while on a double-date with her girlfriend. Al was a college student at the time, majoring in Music Education at Alma College. Arlene and Al soon fell in love, and were married on April 4, 1953, in the chapel at Alma College. Their wedding day went fairly smoothly, right up until it was time to cut the wedding cake. As Arlene leaned over the candelabra towards the cake, her veil caught on fire! Fortunately, her dad saw it happen, and wasted no time tearing off the veil and extinguishing the flames.
Arlene and Al stayed in Alma until Al graduated from college. They then moved to Marlette, Michigan, where Al had found work as an English teacher and Choral director. In the years to come, Arlene and Al were blessed with five children: Beverly Lynn, Robert Michael, David Alan, James Philip, and MaryBeth. Kind, creative, and fun-loving, Arlene was a wonderful mother. She was always thinking of things to do for her children, and supported them in all of their activities.
The whole family was very musical, and Al formed a Gospel group with his children called “The Smiley Singers.” Although Arlene didn’t sing herself, she attended every performance, and could always be spotted smiling proudly in the audience. The family also enjoyed watching movies together, and saw many Disney movies over the years at theaters and drive-ins. As an artist, Arlene loved seeing the animation, and often critiqued the work after the movie was over!
One of Arlene’s favorite times of the year was the Christmas season. She loved playing Santa, and took her time selecting the perfect gifts for her family. When the kids came down on Christmas morning, the gifts would always be beautifully wrapped and carefully displayed under the Christmas tree.
Arlene encouraged her children to serve God through the church. She and the family attended services at First United Methodist Church in Marlette. This is where Arlene met her best friend, MaryBeth Cook, who passed away in 1987. Al was active in the church’s music ministry, while Arlene participated in the young mom ministries.
Arlene and Al rented a series of homes in Marlette, finally working up to building their own home. Arlene’s father, Ottomar, and their son, Bob, did a lot of the building themselves. Arlene and Al did most of the finishing, and were very proud of their home. Arlene enjoyed gardening, and planted many lovely flowers and trees around the house.
Sadly, just as the family was moving into their new home, tragedy struck. Their son, Bob, became ill and was diagnosed with leukemia. By the time he arrived at the University of Michigan hospital, the leukemia had already progressed to stage four. Bob died only four months after the initial diagnosis, at the age of seventeen. The loss of their son and brother was devastating for the family, and especially Arlene. She was never quite the same afterwards, staying home more and getting sick more often. Somehow, she and Al found the strength to make it through the difficult years that followed their loss.
After her beloved husband passed away in 2005, Arlene moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she was a resident at Park Village Pines Assisted Living Center. She lived up to her last name at the center, always bringing smiles to the faces of her neighbors. In the final years of her life, Arlene took great joy in watching her grandchildren grow up. She was proud of each one, and it made her so happy that they all had musical talent, as well as a strong commitment to their church and faith.
Intelligent, hard-working and loyal, Arlene Smiley was a devoted wife, a loving mother and grandmother, and a true friend. She will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by her many friends and family members.
Arlene’s family includes her children, Beverly, Dave, Jim, and MaryBeth; nine grandchildren; and her siblings, Jim, John and Margie. She was preceded in death by her husband, Al; her son, Robert Michael; and her parents, Ottomar and Mary Sting.
Please visit Arlene’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can learn more about her life, share a favorite memory or photo, and sign the online guestbook.