Aaron Smiley

Aaron Smiley Sr.

Thursday, September 9th, 1948 - Thursday, June 3rd, 2021
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Aaron Smiley Sr. September 9, 1948- June 3, 2021

Aaron Smiley Sr was born September 9, 1948, in Daphne, Alabama to Commie C Smiley Sr and Millie Benson Smiley. He was the second oldest son of their 9 children. Growing up in Daphne, Aaron enjoyed spending time with his family, especially his brothers. In later years, he would light up like a Christmas tree when he recalled their friendship, the love, laughter, loyalty and trust they had in one another, it was truly remarkable. The “Smiley Boys” were the definition and purest example of what brotherhood means. Aaron, a man of very few words, loved sharing stories about moments spent at Rainbow Landing, and working on cars with his brothers. Any moment spent with them was the time of his life, no matter where they were or what they were doing; simply put “They were better together”. Aaron was a big sports fan, legend has it that he was quite the football player. Aaron completed his formal education in the Baldwin County School District.
When asked about his years living in the deep south as a young black man, Aaron let it be known that his father was very well respected, and that flowed over to his family. Which he considered to be a blessing, despite the racial tension in his environment he never had any issues. In the late 60’s he moved to Patterson, NJ with his older sister Odessa. From there he moved to Ithaca, NY with his older brother “Sonny”. There he met Elizabeth, whom he affectionately referred to as “Betty Jean”. When asked how he knew she was “the one” he simply replied, “I just knew”.
They married in 1970, shortly after meeting and from their union came Taniesha, Monalita, Ericka and Aaron II. After the children were born, Aaron returned home to Alabama. He quickly came to the realization that with tensions rising, the south was not ideal for raising his children; he felt they’d be afforded more opportunities in New York. So, he relocated his family back to Ithaca NY.
After returning to New York, Aaron found a church home and became a member of Calvary Baptist Church. Where he served on the Usher Board and sang in the Men’s choir, from the 1970’s until the time of his passing. Aaron was a man of many trades and skills. He loved to build, fix and maintain things. He was a hardworking man who always provided for his family. Aaron was employed by Borg Warner for over 30 years where he worked as a Fork-Lift Operator before becoming a Machinist.

Retirement didn’t last long, Aaron quickly returned to work, as he had worked his whole life and enjoyed being busy. He was employed by Shortstop Deli for several years, and for the City of Ithaca where he was a driver for the Senior Program at GIAC. However, the most rewarding position he held during retirement was as a School Crossing Guard. Every morning and afternoon for years, he crossed the children that attended South Hill Elementary School. Rain or shine he looked forward to seeing his little angels, and their families. He kept every card, and hand drawn picture gifted to him as if it were an original Picasso. Angels indeed they are, as they brought him much happiness and joy during the last years of his life.
When he wasn’t working, he indulged in his hobbies, and enjoyed spending time with his long-time friends Deacon Johnny Wright, Deacon Johnny Terry, Gene “Spook” Lymon and Elder Amos Malone. His hobbies included: crossword puzzles, listening to music, watching WWE (WWF), old western movies, washing and waxing his car, recycling, and returning bottles, and playing golf. He especially loved to paint, and on a warm summer night you could catch him relaxing on his porch, cruising around in one of his cars or enjoying a vanilla cone at a local ice cream stand. Aaron was quite fond of and appreciated the simple things in life. But what he loved most was the time spent with his loved ones.
Coming from a large closely knit family, he maintained tradition by building a strong foundation. He instilled the same morals and values that were imparted into him from his parents into his family. He loved his children dearly, and when they began to have children that love grew. His grandchildren were the light of his life. However, it was his great-grandchildren who stole his heart completely.
He is predeceased by his parents: Commie C. Smiley Sr and Millie (Benson) Smiley and his Godparents Mr. and Mrs. Blanton. Five siblings Julia Mae Collins, Leroy, John, Commie C II and Roxie Smiley. Two great-grandchildren, Baby David and Baby Alexander.
Aaron is survived by Elizabeth Smiley, his four children: Taniesha (Anthony) Burton, Monalita (Jamey), Ericka and Aaron Smiley II. Twelve grandchildren: Caprice Malone, Nakia and Reuben Alexander, DeVante’ Johnson, Dejaun and Devondre Lafave, Tijah, Jerrin and Karije Henderson, Shanice (David) Cooper, Latika Abbott, Alexandria and Avani Smiley. Seven great-grandchildren: Christopher Cooper, Eston, Malia and Nullah Alexander. Gianna Abbott, Anthony and Kaivon Chandler.

His sisters Odessa Ellerbee, Leler (Daniel) Stewart, Millie Smiley and Betty (Louis) Dennis. A host of nieces, nephews, and cousins. Aaron was well known and loved in the Ithaca community and surrounding areas. He had a heart of gold. Never missing an opportunity to help those in need and he was always polite and kind to others. He greeted everyone with a smile, and when he asked how you were doing, it was genuine. He was a son, a brother, a devoted Father, trustworthy friend, avid golfer and an exceptional Grandfather. He will be sorely missed by all those that knew him, and he will live on in the hearts of those that loved him most. Aaron was the last living of the “Smiley Boys”, and although our hearts are broken, we know that he has reunited with his brothers, and “They are better together.”
Homegoing services for Aaron Smiley Sr will be held on Friday June 11th 2021 at the Vineyard Church located at 23 Cinema Drive, Ithaca NY, 14850. Visitation will be held from 10-11am with the funeral service beginning at 11am, with burial to follow in Frear Memorial Park.
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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Friday, June 11th, 2021 | 10:00am - 11:00am
    Friday, June 11th, 2021 10:00am - 11:00am
    Vineyard Church of Ithaca
    23 Cinema Drive
    ITHACA, NY 14850
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Service

    Friday, June 11th, 2021 | 11:00am
    Friday, June 11th, 2021 11:00am
    Vineyard Church of Ithaca
    23 Cinema Drive
    ITHACA, NY 14850
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Interment

    Friday, June 11th, 2021 |
    Friday, June 11th, 2021
    Frear Memorial Park
    Hayts Road
    ITHACA, NY 14850
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Julie Addy

Posted at 08:32am
We were so very sorry to learn of Mr. Smiley’s passing. He was always a welcome sight at the corner of Hudson St. and Crescent Pl. where he was the crossing guard. He always offered ready smile and a wave as he helped pedestrians and cars pass through the intersection. We looked forward to his happy presence whenever we drove by. Our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

Lori Y

Posted at 06:43am
The lovely memorial across from South Hill Elementary School.

Herbert Battle, Jr.

Posted at 08:58am
Although I didn’t know Aaron well, I remember him as a kind-hearted, soft-spoken man. My sincere condolences go out to the Smiley and Ellerbee Families.


Posted at 11:26am
Dear Family,
Please accept my heartfelt condolences. Aaron made a difference for the better in many people’s lives. He will be greatly missed by G.I.A.C and the South Hill communities.
Eniko Farkas

Michael Smith

Posted at 01:36pm
I commute to Ithaca College by bicycle almost every day. For years I looked forward to passing Mr. Smiley at his station by the crosswalk to South Hill Elementary. "Have a nice day!" he would say without fail. He always made the hill feel a little less steep. I was shocked to learn of his passing. I will miss his presence on the corner very much.

Michael Smith

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