Frances Kompus has turned 100 years old — and she’s still not the oldest in her family. On November 11, 2021, Kompus celebrated her 100th birthday with her sisters, Julie Kopriva who is 104, and Lucy Pochop who is 102. About fifty other people joined the party at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Kansas town of Atwood, where the sisters were all baptized and married. “I loved it,” Kompus said. “It was a good party.“
The Lives of Three Oldest Sisters
The sisters grew up on a farm in Beardsley, Kansas after their grandparents immigrated from what was then Czechoslovakia. The youngest of the three, Frances remembered she had to “run to keep up with her sisters” while they walked two miles to school. “I always did what they did,” Kompus said. “Sometimes that was working and sometimes that was fun.”
Outside of school, the sisters would help their parents with the farm. Frances explained that they would run the tractor “for half a day at a time” or pull a plow or rod weeder. “It was good on the farm,” she said. “I had a few geese to play with and even had some roosters I made pets.” In addition to living actively, the family ate homegrown food and meat. “We always had homemade bread, just plain potatoes, and gravy and meat. With those cookstoves, that was hard to bake. The temperature was hard to keep. Even if it didn’t come out good, we still ate it,” said Kopriva.
Even during the Great Depression, they got to eat beans and chicken. However, it was a difficult time period to live through. “It was dark sometimes. The teachers would call the parents, and, you know, to come and get us from school. Then, we had old homes, and at the bottom, my mother would always put wet towels so the dirt wouldn’t be so bad to come in,” said Kopriva. “The younger generation don’t believe what we done went through. We work today, but we worked harder those days.” 
The Secret to Long Life
Frances credits eating well as one of the secrets of her longevity. Another secret of hers is being social, walking a lot, and “keep going.”
“They were farm wives and hardworking women. … They raised good kids, some of them still farming here,” said Rosalie Ross, editor of the Rawlins County Square Deal newspaper in Atwood, who has interviewed the sisters over the years. “Of course, the interesting thing is all of them are 100 and all of them are in really relatively good health.” She added that interviewing them “was so much fun. They laugh and talk and remember. I would say it was delightful. It’s a glimpse into history.”
Ross gave the example of one story by Julia Kopriva. When she was in first grade, she couldn’t join the school play because of the language barrier. Her family only spoke Czech at home and the other children couldn’t understand her. This spurned Julia into perfecting her English and teaching it to her family as well. “So you’ve got a determined little kid (who said), ‘This ain’t happening anymore,'” Ross said.
The sisters’ lives changed drastically when the Rural Electrification Act came in 1936, bringing electricity into their homes. “Then they could have freezers, refrigerators and small appliances, yard lights and electricity to read by,” Ross said.
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“The Three Musketeers”
Frances, Julia, and Lucy stayed close since childhood but they got closer in adulthood, especially when they became widows and moved into adjoining apartments in Atwood. All three are grandmothers and Francess and Julia are great-grandmothers too. According to Kompus’ daughter Fran Allacher, moving together was a great incentive to spend more time together. “It was nothing for them to play cards every night of the week, and dominoes – that was their thing,” she said. “They just got together and they’ve been their support for each other, forever.” The sisters also enjoy polka dancing, practicing it, and watching it.
Kopriva explained that she enjoyed being the oldest of two younger sisters as a child. “I’m glad we had company. We got to play together.” She added, “I get to be boss.”
“We’ve been together all of our lives around Rawlins County and Atwood,” said Kopriva’s daughter, Valyne Pochop. Her son, Victor Holum, still works on the family farm. She explained that the three sisters were known as “The Three Musketeers” since “they’ve always been involved in each other’s lives. That’s just pretty amazing.”
Pochop added that the three used to speak often throughout the years, of course, always getting together for the holidays. “We always had family holiday celebrations with the aunts and uncles and cousins and, of course, Grandpa and Grandma when they were alive. They’ve always been very close.”