After 100 years, Frances Kompus is still trying to catch up with her older sisters.
Kompus celebrated his 100th birthday on November 11. Sisters Julia Kopriva, who turned 104 in early November, and Lucy Pochop, who turned 102 in June, helped celebrate the celebration.
In all, about 50 people joined Kompus at the party at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the northwestern city of Kansas. It is the same church that they grew up attending, were baptized and confirmed in, and each one married throughout the years. “I loved it,” Kompus said during an interview recently. “It was a good party.”
Growing up on a farm in Beardsley, Kansas, with two older sisters, Kompus always had company. She recalled sometimes having to “run to keep up with her sisters” on the two-mile walk to school. “I always did what they did,” Kompus said. “Sometimes that worked and sometimes it was fun.”
Send Christmas cards ?:Here’s what USPS, Shutterfly, and a label expert want you to know
His grandparents emigrated from Czechoslovakia and became farmers in Rawlins County, which is equidistant from Denver and Salina, Kansas. They had no siblings, so the three girls would work on the farm for their parents.
Frances recounted how he drove the tractor “half a day at a time,” often pulling a one-way disc plow or a rod weeder. “It was good on the farm,” he said. “I had some geese to play with and I even had some roosters that I made as pets.”
At their farm, which is about nine miles from Atwood, they also ate “good home-cooked food,” killing their own pigs, for example, he said. Even in tough times like the Great Depression, his mother cooked chicken and served dried beans, Kompus said.
She acknowledges that eating well is one of the reasons for her long life and Kompus is happy that the Good Samaritan Society home in Atwood, which she moved to in December 2019, also has good meals.
Other keys to longevity, Kompus said: Get social, walk a lot, and just “keep going.”
Rosalie Ross, editor of the Rawlins County Square Deal newspaper in Atwood, has interviewed and written about each of the sisters as they have reached milestones over the years. Ross said Kompus told him, “Well, we never ate fancy, but we ate good food.”
“They were farmers’ wives and working women … They raised good children, some of them still farming here,” Ross said in an interview with USA TODAY. “Of course, the interesting thing is that they are all 100 years old and they are all in relatively good health.”
Talking to them “was a lot of fun. They laugh, they talk and they remember,” Ross said. “I’d say it was a delight. It’s a glimpse into history.”
One story Julia Kopriva told him stood out, Ross said. When Julia was in first grade, she couldn’t be in the school play because they didn’t understand her; the family spoke Czech at home. But by the end of the year, Julia had learned English and had also taught her sisters and parents to speak English.
“So you have a determined little boy, (who said), ‘This is not going to happen anymore,'” Ross said.
Sister Lucy Pochop recently said in a separate interview: “We did in those days what had to be done.”
Perhaps the biggest change in their lives came when the passage of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 finally brought electricity to their farm, Ross said. “Then they could have freezers, refrigerators and small appliances, garden lights and electricity to read,” he said.
Although the sisters have always been close, their time together grew as each became a widow and moved into adjoining apartments in Atwood, said Kompus’ daughter, Fran Allacher, who lives nearby. McCook, Nebraska. Each of the sisters had children and are grandmothers. Kompus and Kopriva are also great-great-grandmothers.
After Lucy moved into an apartment next door to Julia in 2000, “it was nothing for them to play cards every night of the week, and dominoes, that was their thing,” Allacher said. “They just got together and have supported each other forever.”
The sisters loved attending polka balls as they grew up in the local Czech community and until recently met to watch the Mollie B Polka Party program on RFD-TV on the weekends, Allacher said.
“Yes, a lot of dancing in our youth,” Kompus said.
They discussed their education in a recent interview with Kansas NBC TV affiliate Wichita. KSN. Pochop recalled how on his first day of school, “Dad took us to school in a wagon.”
When they were young, Kopriva told USA TODAY that she was glad to have her sisters around and that they always got along well. “I’m glad to have company. We were able to play together,” Kopriva said. But, she added, like the oldest, “I can be the boss.”
“We’ve been together our entire lives in Rawlins and Atwood County,” said Pochop, whose son, Victor Holub, who still farms the family farm, started in 1917.
At the maternity ward, they called two or three times a day, said her daughter Valyne Pochop, who lives in St. Joseph, Missouri. “We always had family holiday celebrations with aunts and uncles and cousins and of course Grandpa and Grandma when they were alive. They have always been very close,” he said.
So close that they were known as “The Three Musketeers,” Pochop said. “They have always been involved in each other’s lives. That is quite surprising.”
Also amazing? Even today, “I don’t think (any of us) feel that old,” Older Sister Kopriva said.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism