Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.
This week it’s Marie Touitou, a 20-year YLP resident and community leader extraordinaire. Since moving here from the Bay Area with her husband, Rudy, she has plunged into community affairs, from Ladies of the Lakes, Garden Club, Yosemite Lakes Community Church, and helping to save the water company from financial straits to serving on the Yosemite Lakes Owners’ Association board as director and president, and most recently as the YLOA annual election inspector, member of the Governing Documents and Policies Committee, and chair of the Trails and Recreation Committee. She loves YLP with a passion and shares that with all.
Tell us about where you were born and grew up.
I was born in Seattle and my first home was a cabin in the mountains. It was a one-room cabin. There was my mom, my dad and my older brother, 3, and I was six weeks old when we moved up there. My dad built a two-room extension on it out of logs. So, I actually lived in a log cabin, my first four years.
The story goes that we had a such a bad blizzard, it buried the cabin and my dad was in town. I think at the time he worked at Boeing. He came up on the weekends. And so there were three of us. Mom put me and my younger brother on the toboggan. She had to haul us down to the train a mile-and-a-half through this horrible snow. And she said, I’m not living another winter up there. So we moved into Seattle.
So I was potty trained in an outhouse. Our only amenity was my dad ran a water line. We had gravity-fed water from the creek. We had a wood stove. This was south of Stampede Pass. The creek was Green Canyon Creek and it fed into the Green River. Rooster Comb Mountain was above us.
The creek never ran dry. Our refrigerator was a garbage can in the creek with a big rock on top to keep the bears out of it.
After we moved into town, we used it as a summer cabin. So my memories of it, of course, don’t extend back to when I actually lived there but I certainly have many, many memories of the cabin until I was 12.
Tell us about your parents.
My dad was a journalist. During the war he worked for the Seattle physics laboratory. They were part of that project of the atomic bomb down in the South Pacific. My dad did something in the way of Journalism and, and then he went to work for Boeing as a technical writer to write to be able to interpret drawings for the average laborer.
So then he decided he wanted to be a writer and he needed to do something. So he went to work for the post office, so that would save his brain for his writing, but he never did do any writing. He was very, very talented but was never published.
His name was Theo Smid. Smid was my maiden name. It’s Czech. I’m half Czech, yes.
My mom had an interesting background. She’s from an Oregon pioneer family, her great-grandfather I think it was came across the plains in a covered wagon in 1848. The year that the Oregon Trail got opened up along the Columbia River and they settled in Clatsop County Oregon. And there’s a town up there named after him, Gearhart. The family had come across from Germany in 17-something.
Unfortunately, my mom’s mother died when my mom was only 11 years old and she got pneumonia. She was a concert singer. And so then her father married his wife’s friend to raise his two daughters and then he got cancer and died when my mom was 14.
So my mom, she was very precocious. She’s very smart. She graduated from high school early. She went to college. On her own, she got a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. She wanted to get a PhD. She would have been a lawyer. She was studying speech. She was the debate champion for the University of Washington for several years. Yeah, but women weren’t lawyers. So she became a high school teacher.
She taught English and when we moved to California, she started teaching at Berkeley (High) and my dad had an office in the post office. I don’t remember what he did, exactly.
Tell us about your brothers.
I had an older brother, three years older and I have a brother that’s a year younger than me. Well, my older brother passed away. My younger brother is not doing so well, physically. They both were in the service. My older brother was in the Army. He was in Germany in the Berlin airlift time. (My younger brother) was in the Navy. He became a machinist and when he got out, he worked for Alameda Naval Air Station until it was closed. And then, he became a bridge tender for the one of those bridges down in Alameda. He still lives up in San Leandro.
What were your memories as a teen-ager?
We moved to California when I was 12. My dad said he was going to rust. My father was from St. Louis. My mother was born and raised in Seattle. They met in New York City before World War II. They eventually came back out to Seattle and my dad didn’t like the rain. So we moved to California.
We thought we were going to the promised land. I immediately adapted to the heat of California. It is in my bones to like the heat. I now have osteoarthritis and the heat is really good for me.
Well, my parents were not real happy with each other. So we moved around a lot trying to satisfy whatever was going on with my parents. So, I went to two junior highs and three high schools. We first lived in Oakland Hills above Lake Merritt. Then we moved out to Walnut Creek. And then we moved to San Francisco out by the ocean, where you never saw the sun in the summertime, which I didn’t like. I lived there two years, my parents split up and we moved to Berkeley. All this time, my parents still had the same jobs until my father retired. He took a medical leave for whatever reason and he went back to St. Louis and my mom stayed on teaching.
I was 17. And so it was just my mom and my younger brother and me in an apartment in Berkeley. And then we moved to a flat something, a little bigger.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a dentist because I was blessed with really good hands. I could make things, I could play the piano, I could do anything. I like working with my hands and but my best subject in school was biology. And I like being with people as well. I mean, I wasn’t a recluse and so dentistry seemed to be a good fit for me. Unfortunately, women were not allowed in most dental schools. When I approached my own dentist who was on the staff of the dental school in San Francisco to be my sponsor, he laughed at me. He just laughed at me and he said, you need to be a hygienist. Then you can be a wife and mother. You can’t take the seat of a man who has to support a family.
So I graduated from high school in 1963, went to U.C. Berkeley, and I became the best dental hygienist I could be. Because my parents split up, I had no funds. I couldn’t go on to U.C. San Francisco. I couldn’t afford it. So fortunately, they’d opened up a program in a community college. I got very fortunate because I could afford that. I did really well. I always did well in school and I had a job. I started out at a dollar an hour. I worked in a men’s clothing store.I did live at home, but I had to pay my way through school.
What’s it like to be a hygienist?
Well, a hygienist is basically what people think of, a person who cleans teeth and I was good at that. Okay, but I I also was very fortunate that some of the dentists I work for allowed me a lot of freedom. What we were allowed to do got expanded. I went to school and learned to give shots. I learned to give nitrous oxide and what have you? But I also learned a lot about what the dentist knows except for the actual physical act of doing fillings extractions, and so on. Treatment planning was a big thing for me because it’s integrated with how their gums are as well as the status of the teeth. And so I I did a lot of helping the dentist with treatment planning and trying to convince the patient what they needed. And I really liked teaching the patient home care because that’s the real key to keeping teeth.
How has dentistry changed?
Oh, a tremendous difference, an Improvement (in how people care for their teeth). But not only that, dentistry has improved tremendously. When I started, if you had an abscessed back tooth, it was extracted. There were only root canals for front teeth.
When I retired 20 years ago, it was very rare to see an adult person who had never had their teeth cleaned, whereas in the early years. I saw it all the time. When I started in dentistry, there was no dental insurance, except for the longshoremen in San Francisco. That’s the first dental insurance, and then Teamsters got dental insurance, and eventually, most everybody who worked, and insurance made a big difference in people, taking care of their teeth and being able to afford to go to the dentist.
Tell us about your kids and meeting Rudy
I got married really young and I had two kids. I had my first one right after I passed my state boards. I lived in Fairfield. And so I had two kids and I had a stepson that lived with us for a number of years as well. I eventually got divorced.
My daughter’s my oldest. She started kindergarten and I was a room mother. I was team mother for my son’s soccer teams. I was band parent for my daughter’s band and, and so on, I was always involved like that.
Donna and John are now both in their 50s. She is a mechanical engineer who specializes in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. She is the chief mechanical engineer for a company that makes very large buildings and does all kinds of equipment upgrades for the aerospace and food service industries. She lives in Mission Viejo and works for the Austin Company.
My son is an IT person. I can’t talk to you about it because he speaks a different language from me. He lives in Gilroy and he actually works from home. He works for a medical device company in Sunnyvale. They developed something for Covid testing.
(Rudy Touitou and I) lived in Livermore. We were almost neighbors. We had friends that were neighbors.
So we got married in 1998 and we’ve been married it, you know, 20-something years. My husband had some medical issues and decided since his company was moving, we would have to move for him to stay working there. He didn’t want to be looking for another job, so we ended up retiring and that’s how we ended up here. I felt like I’d come home. Remember, I grew up in a mountain cabin.
I don’t like cities at all. I like the mountains. I like the open spaces. It was a leap of faith for my husband to move here, though. Because he was a city person.
He has three kids and together we have six grandchildren now. The oldest is 23, graduated from college last year and the youngest is an infant.
What brought you both to YLP?
(They took a cross-country RV trip and looked at property in Texas, but Marie didn’t want to leave California) And when we came home, we were telling our family about it and his son said, why don’t you check out Coarsegold? He used to be a driver for Safeway and Von’s in Oakhurst was on his route. And there were friends of his that we had met who had bought a house here for their retirement.
So we went home that day and I looked it up online. First thing I did was I looked to see if Kaiser (Permanente) was here. I discovered we had Kaiser here and so that was good. And so then I looked at real estate online and I’m going, Wow, look at this. My house was on the list. I go, you gotta come and look at this house. Yeah, that’s how it happened. That was on a Saturday and Monday we packed the RV and we came out here and stayed in Oakhurst and looked at houses.
It was a good choice. I can sit at my kitchen table and I can see Shuteye Mountain. I don’t even have to go outside.
So what happened after you moved here?
My neighbor across the street saw that we had hauled up a whole trailer load of potted plants. She knew that I was interested in gardening. So she came over and invited me to church. She invited me to Ladies of the Lakes. She invited me to the Garden Club. And I’ve been involved ever since. She doesn’t live here anymore. It was Clarice Griffin. She’s who I hiked with, I hiked all over this place with Clarice. It was with her that we started the trails committee in the Ladies of the Lakes. Then we turned it over to the association. The trail up on Revis and the trail around the lake were the only trails we had. We tramped around and decided where we wanted trails to be.
Eventually when Michael Neveu became the general manager, he started having maintenance work on the trails around the lake. I think it was around 2006 that the association created a trails committee. And eventually they made it into Trails and Recreation but they started a trails committee and it was when Al Clark was on the board that we got the trail up on the upper loop of the Blue Heron built and that was the extent of what was done until I got on.
We started working on the Stagecoach Trail — we didn’t call it that at that time — but the Long Hollow Green Belt when Denis (Ciccarelli) was in charge of the Trails and Recreation committee. Then I got on the board and I took over the trails committee when I got on.
What do you regard as your biggest accomplishments with YLP?
My biggest accomplishment is the Stagecoach Trail and and Jim’s Loop and what you’ve done on the website with the Trails and Recreation page. I’m very, very pleased with that. I’m hoping to live long enough to see all of our trails connected. And my other biggest accomplishment was, when I was president of the board hiring Jonathan. Yeah, that was a real difficult time, but we were simultaneously looking into outside management as well as hiring our own general manager. We did both of those at the same time. I discovered that our own general manager was a much better fit for our community than getting an outside management company, and I’m very pleased with Jonathan’s work. We have a good plan. I am really pleased that he has tackled this upgrade of our aging infrastructure. It’s not something that can be done overnight. It’s a long-term project.
What do you see your role as moving forward?
I love it here. I absolutely love it here. I’m blessed with being able to, you know, be able to still think pretty well and I’m organized. And I like to be able to contribute, to help. Solve issues. I have a body of knowledge of what’s happened in the past. And through saving my papers and having them be organized, that I can put my finger on. So like when somebody calls or sends me an email says, do you remember this? I can send it off and say, yeah, I have it.
I really want our park to be not a pristine jewel. I’m not looking into that, but a wonderful place to live. I don’t like disharmony. And when people talk with each other, I try to put out fires. When people are misinformed, I try to do that because generally speaking at least they think that they are doing the right thing, but they may be misguided. Are they misinformed? I’m I hate rumors. Absolutely hate rumors. So once in a while, I try to put down a rumor when I know the actual fact, but I’d like to stay involved. As long as I can. I really would like to but I don’t have a desire to be a boss. I’d much rather just be a facilitator, keep things going smoothly.
The focus has been so much more on membership involvement than what we used to have and getting the information to the people. I just wish more people would vote.
What’s your opinion about the value of volunteering?
Not everybody has it in their heart. But if you have it in your heart, do it. It is so rewarding to volunteer. It comes back to you tenfold yourself. A lot of people think they shouldn’t do any kind of work unless they get paid for it, but I’ve been doing volunteer work since I was a kid, so I it’s part of me. This is kind of what makes the place run, really.
Anything else you’d like to say to fellow YLPers?
Oh, one more thing. I’ve told my doctor that I want to still be hiking when I’m 90. I want to at least be able to walk around the lake when I’m 90 years old. I encourage everybody to get out there and use the trails.