Toot Corville

by Linda Okazaki

Tuchia Irene Corville. Isn’t that an unusual name? Her siblings had rather ordinary names: Richard, Florence, John, William, Josephine, Ellen, Catherine, Stanley, Ralph. Where on earth did her parents come up with Tuchia? Tuchia is a musical term. It is also a Hebrew word meaning something akin to wisdom. None of these really made sense. But tuchia is the reddish oxide by-product of bronze making and Tuchia was a red head, the only one in the family, as far as I know. Relatives recall that she had wild, fiery hair with a temper to match.

Tuchia Irene Corville was the tenth known child of Emerson and Maria Corville. She was born in Healdsburg, California on 15 March 1883. Her siblings called her “Toot”.  Toot was known for her rebellious streak. As a teenager, she fell in love with an older man by the name of William Ambrose. He wrote a book of love poems for her and hand bound it in blue velvet. In his poems he indicated that he would “wait” for her until she came of age. On her 17th birthday, Tuchia and William were married in San Francisco. He was 40 years old. In the marriage announcement from the San Francisco Call, their ages were declared as 22 and 38.

Tuchia and Will had two children together, William Ralph and Ruth Margaret, who was my grandmother. During the early years of their marriage, the familly lived on Collingwood St. in San Francisco. She worked for many years as a milliner. On 14 August 1914, Tuchia filed for divorce from Will. The divorce became final on 16 August 1915. Four days later she married Charles Jesse White. Charles was from Healsdburg and likely knew the Corville family for many years. He died of Spanish Influenza in 1918. About this time, Tuchia began to use her middle name, Irene. She went on to have at least two more husbands, though family member indicate she more likely had three. She had no more children.

Tuchia bought property in Marin County on Mt. Tamalpais near Muir Woods. She built a hodge podge cabin called “Camp Pile Inn”. To get to this weekend and summer place, the family would first take the ferry from San Francisco to Larkspur. From there, they would take a train up the side of the mountain. When extended family gathered at Camp Pile Inn, they often attended theatrical productions put on by the Mountain Play Association, which is still active today. Tuchia’s daughter, Ruth, kept a photo album which documented these experiences.

Tuchia had a long history of stroke and senility, as did three of her four sisters, her maternal grandmother and her maternal aunt. After residing for a number of years in a nursing home, Tuchia died 2 October 1940. At the time, she had two grandchildren; a third was born after her death. All but two of her descendants still live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tuchia “Toot” Irene Corville Ambrose is buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.