James Alexander Willis Smiley (March 1905--August 1942)

this information provided by granddaughter, Willa (Painter) Eklund

The Smiley's came from Kansas during the depression. James worked as foreman on various ranches in Northern San Luis Obispo County. When the war started he and his brother Clifford went to work on the breakwater. They were a fearless duo and worked as "powder monkey's" (a term not often used today that dates from 1682, meaning one who has charge of exposivies.) His demise wasn't the direct result of an explosion, but due to a previous one. James lived in Atascadero at the time of his death.

The funeral for James was one of the largest in Atascadero's history. James was a very well liked person and people lined the streets for his funeral procession


ed note: At least four other men were killed building the breakwater. We don't know who they were and if anyone knows, please let us know. One we recently found out about was Arnold Spreafico, age 43, a Cayucos resident at the time. Several men were swept off the North breakwater due to the high seas. This was in late September 1942. His body was never recovered and the others managed to swim to shore.

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