In Memory

David Templeton Smiley - Class Of 1944

David Templeton Smiley

When people asked Dave Smiley how he was, he invariably answered, "Mean and ornery, as usual." The joke was, he was neither; ever. An affable Corona del Mar dentist with a smile and a plethora of jokes for his patients, he embraced life, his work and his family and friends with joy and gusto. He was 80 when he died at home of cancer on Febuary 2, 2007.

He was born in Los Angeles May 8, 1926, graduated high school in South Pasadena and joined the Army Air Corps in 1944 in the hope of becoming a pilot. But because he wore glasses, he wasn't allowed in the pilot's seat. Instead, he was a radio technician. After his discharge two years later, he went to then-John Muir Junior College (now Pasadena City College) while working for a florist and doing other odd jobs. He put himself through USC dental school and after practicing briefly in Pomona and marrying Jackie Hill in 1953, moved to Corona del Mar. Introduced to sailing by a former teacher, Dave had joined the Balboa Yacht Club in 1947. That's where he met Jackie, and it's what drew him to life by the ocean.

He went into practice on South Coast Highway, where hundreds of patients paraded through the blue front doors of his office building until his retirement in 2001. Dave walked to and from work each day and usually walked home for lunch, too. He was the kind of dentist you could call in the evenings or on weekends. If you were really in dire dental distress, he'd meet you at his office after hours.

He was calming, competent, funny and talkative, telling jokes or recounting sailing stories or World War II history (he was fascinated by that war) while his tools and fingers in their mouths reduced patient responses to guttural grunts. When he wasn't talking, he was humming. Dave hummed softly much of the time; familiar tunes like "Down by the Old Mill Stream."

Although he resisted nagging his children about brushing and flossing, he did periodically give them a tablet to chew that temporarily colored their teeth. He then had them brush the teeth and could tell, by how much color remained, how good a job they'd done. His primary leisure-time passion was sailing and he owned a number of sailboats over the years, all named Red after his wife's and daughters' hair color. As a family, they sailed often to Catalina or the Channel Islands, and Dave crewed twice in the Transpac race from Los Angeles to Honolulu on the 67-foot yawl Chubasco. And his children were well grounded in boat maintenance, as they alternately stripped and brushed on varnish.

But Dave also held to his love of flying, got his pilot's license and became part owner of a four-seat Beechcraft Debonaire, which he and Jackie took frequently to Catalina or to Nogales, Mexico, where they dined at an old hotel, La Roca, built on the side of a cave, and where Dave could buy his favorite Hornitos tequila and another key margarita ingredient, Controy, a Mexican version of orange liqueur.

Dave was famous for his margaritas, which he offered, straight off, to just about anyone who came to the house and for which he grew his own limes.

Life with Dave was an adventure. His children learned to love sailing, camping and skiing. They also learned the importance of being smart with their money, going to college and being honest – with themselves and with others.

"It doesn't matter what you do," he used to say, "it's how you do it. Just be a good person."

He laughed often and easily; a funny little squeak of a laugh; and was deeply sentimental.

Shortly before he died, his children found, carefully tucked away, every birthday or Father's Day card they had made him or letter they'd written since the time they were small children.

Survivors: wife, Jackie; daughters, Cheryl Michelon, Suzanne Stimson; son, David; grandchildren, Laure, Noah, Dayna, Will.

Orange County Register, February 9, 2007