After 100 years, Frances Kompus is still trying to catch up with her big sisters.
Kompus celebrated its 100th anniversary on November 11. Her sisters Julia Kopriva, who turned 104 earlier in November, and Lucy Pochop, who celebrated her 102nd birthday in June, helped celebrate.
Overall, about 50 people joined Kompus for the feast at the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in the northwestern town of Kansas. This is the same church in which they grew up, were baptized and confirmed, and where each has married over the years. “Loved it,” Kompus said in an interview recently. “It was a good party.”
Growing up on a farm in Beardsley, Kansas with two older sisters, Kompus has always had company. She remembers sometimes having to “run to follow her sisters” on the three-kilometer walk to school. “I always did what they did,” Kompus said. “Sometimes it worked and sometimes it was fun.”
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Their grandparents immigrated from Czechoslovakia and became farmers in Rawlins County, equidistant from Denver and Salina, Kansas. They did not have brothers, so the three daughters worked on the farm for their parents.
Frances explained that she would use the tractor “for half a day at a time”, often pulling a one-way disc plow or a rod weeder. “It was good on the farm,” she said. “I had a few geese to play with and even had roosters that I had made into pets.”
At their farm, located about nine miles from Atwood, they also ate “good homemade food,” butchering their own pigs, for example, she said. Even during difficult times such as the Great Depression, her mother cooked chicken and served dried bean meals, Kompus said.
She credits eating well as one of the reasons for her long life and Kompus is happy that the Good Samaritan Society house in Atwood, which she moved into in December 2019, also offers great meals.
Other keys to longevity, Kompus said: be social, walk a lot, and just “keep moving.”
Rosalie Ross, editor-in-chief of the Rawlins County Square Deal newspaper in Atwood, interviewed and wrote about each of the sisters as they reached milestones over the years. Ross said Kompus told him, “Well, we never ate fancy, but we ate good food.”
“They were farmers and hard working women… They raised good kids, some of them are still farmers here,” Ross said in an interview with USA TODAY. “Of course the interesting thing is that they’re all 100 years old and they’re all very healthy.”
Talking to them “was so much fun. They laugh and talk and remember,” Ross said. “I would say it was delicious. It’s a bit of history.”
A story told to her by Julia Kopriva stood out, Ross said. When Julia was in first grade, she couldn’t be in the school room because they couldn’t understand her – the family spoke Czech at home. But by the end of the year Julia had learned English and also taught her sisters and parents to speak English.
“So you have a determined little kid, (who said), ‘That doesn’t happen anymore,'” said Ross.
Sister Lucy Pochop recently said in a separate interview: “At that time we did what needed to be done.”
Perhaps the biggest change in their lives came when the 1936 passage of the Rural Electrification Act finally brought electricity to their farm, Ross said. “Then they could have freezers, refrigerators and small appliances, garden lights and electricity to read,” she said.
Although the sisters have always been close, the time they spent together increased as each widowed and moved into adjacent apartments in Atwood, said Kompus’ daughter Fran Allacher, who lives in nearby McCook, Nebraska. Each of the sisters has had children and is a grandmother. Kompus and Kopriva are also great-great-grandmothers.
After Lucy moved into an apartment next to Julia in 2000, “it was nothing for them playing cards every night of the week, and dominoes was their thing,” Allacher said. “They just got together and they’ve been supporting each other, forever.”
The sisters enjoyed watching polka dances growing up in the local Czech community, and until recent years they would get together to watch the Mollie B Polka Party show on RFD-TV on weekends, Allacher said.
“Yes, a lot of dancing in our youth,” Kompus said.
They discussed their upbringing in a recent interview with Wichita, KSN, Kansas affiliate NBC TV. Pochop recalled how, on his first day of school, “Daddy took us to school in a cart.”
As young girls, Kopriva told USA TODAY that she was happy to have her sisters around and that they still got along. “I’m glad we had company. We got to play together,” said Kopriva. But, she added, as the eldest, “I become a patron.”
“We’ve been together all of our lives around Rawlins County and Atwood,” said Pochop, whose son, Victor Holub, who still operates the homestead, began in 1917.
In the maternity ward, they called each other two or three times a day, said her daughter Valyne Pochop, who lives in St. Joseph, Missouri. “We have always had family celebrations with aunts, uncles and cousins and, of course, with grandfather and grandmother when they were alive. They have always been very close,” he said. she declared.
So close they were known as “The Three Musketeers,” Pochop said. “They’ve always been involved in each other’s lives. It’s just amazing enough.”
Also incredible? Even today, “I don’t think (any of us) feel that old,” Big Sister Kopriva said.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.