Five Sisters: Still Together After 73 Years

In this remodeled house in the Mission Valley live five widowed women, all sisters, between the ages of 80 and 92.

When the four oldest moved in with the youngest last year, 73 years had passed since they all had lived under the same roof. The home of their childhoods is just six or seven miles away. They grew up in a family of 11, the children of homesteaders Lila and Jess Evans. Everyone else is gone now, all four of their brothers and two of their sisters. One of them, Lois, they never met. She died at the age of 5, of a ruptured appendix, before any of these women were born. Total their ages, and you get 433 years. Add up their children, you get 24. Total their grandchildren, you get 90. Add up their great-grandchildren, you get 110. Those last two numbers may be approximations, but are certainly pretty close. The “middle” child of these surviving five, 87-year-old Eva Bauer, has nine children herself –one son, eight daughters – and when you ask how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she has, she answers “50” to both. There’s a large, framed photograph of most of her immediate family hanging in the hallway outside her bedroom door, and while nobody stopped to count, there could easily be 100 or more people in the picture.

The five sisters say they don’t argue much – and then immediately start to argue about how much they argue. The “argument,” understand, occurs amid much laughter from all of them.

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“We get along half the time,” Bauer decides. “There was a long time in between living together where we
all probably got set in our ways.”

“I leave the kitchen when they all get in there,” says the oldest, 92-year-old Inez Freshour Pounds. In
addition to the three children, eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren she contributes to those totals above, Pounds has two great-greatgrandchildren. It was the youngest, 80-year-old Lila Faye Krantz, who first floated the idea of the five sisters pooling their resources and adding on to her
house so they could live together.

“I mentioned it, and they all jumped on the wagon,” Krantz says.

“I wanted to wait till I was old,” Bauer interjects.

Although two of them, Pounds and 85-year-old Ella Gilchrist, have some problems with vision that makes living alone more challenging, there was no immediate need for them to do what they did – just a general notion that living together would be better than living alone.

“You get lonesome,” Pounds says. “When Lila Faye brought it up, I thought it was a good idea.”

The second-oldest of the bunch, 89-year-old Emma Roberts, still has her home in Polson and splits her
time between there and the newly remodeled house. Roberts was the last of the sisters to be widowed when she lost Newt, her husband of 65 years, in 2013. Her son Mike built the addition to Krantz’s home.

The women all chipped in to finance the major addition, which includes three bedrooms and a large and partially divided “great room” that two of them utilize as their bedrooms. They have rules for living together, but they aren’t exactly imposing ones.

“One thing we said is that everyone can sleep as late as they want,” Krantz says, “and when you want
breakfast, come out and get your own.”

The sisters are regulars at senior center lunches in St. Ignatius and Charlo, and all help out with cooking dinner at home, where Bauer usually takes the lead.

“I get bossy,” Bauer admits.

“She raised nine children,” Pounds notes. “It’s natural for her.”

“If one of us is in the kitchen, she’s in there,” Krantz says with a laugh. But the bottom line, Krantz adds, is that “we don’t miss many meals.”

Each sister is responsible for her own bedroom. Krantz, they say, does most of the cleaning in the rest
of the house where she and her late husband raised their three sons.

“It’s her vacuum,” Bauer deadpans.

“I think Lila Faye sacrifices a lot,” Pounds says. “I think she tries to take too good of care of us. She’s always worrying about us.”

“I’m a lot busier,” Krantz says. “But it’s OK.”

The last time all five had lived in the same house was 1942. Krantz, the baby of the family, was 6 when Pounds got married and moved away. Now that they’re back under one roof, they occasionally reminisce about their childhoods and the large family they were part of. Their father Jess’s calm disposition came up one day last week. Several of the older children had been born, but none of the five surviving sisters were around yet, when the Evans’ family house burned to the ground.
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“Momma went out to get hair off the horse’s mane, because she was making a stick horse for the boys,”
Gilchrist recalls.

While she was outside, one of the boys, who was about 3 years old, climbed up to where the matches
were kept. He struck one, but dropped it into a pile of paper when it flared to life.

“Dad and Mr. Biggerstaff were pulling a load of wood home from the hills,” Gilchrist says. “Mr. Biggerstaff saw the house burning down in the distance, and Poppa knew it was ours. Mr. Biggerstaff wanted to race his horses back to the house, but Poppa said no.

He said, ‘The house looks like it’s gone. This is a good team. Don’t kill ’em.”

Their mother, who had gotten all the children out of the house when she saw the flames, was frantic, Krantz says, but Jess Evans calmed her down after slowly making his way back to the fully engulfed home, and suggesting that all things considered, it had been a pretty good day.

“He said, ‘Well, you saved all the kids, didn’t you? We can build another house,’ ” Krantz says.

Many decades later, building on to Krantz’s house has given the Evans sisters another place to call home.

Four of them have spent most of their lives within 30 miles of one another, between Polson and St.
Ignatius. Gilchrist, meantime, moved back from the Tri-Cities in Washington, where she had been for the past 40 years.

They’ve remained close – every other year, an Evans family reunion at nearby Leon Hall draws well over
200 of Lila and Jess Evans’ descendants – but the relatively new living arrangement has them learning
new things about each other.

“I never knew Emma was such a clown,” Poundssays. “And such a poor loser at cards!”

“I am not a poor loser,” Roberts responds. “I’m a bad-lucker.”

She’s always leaned toward the playful side, Gilchrist says.

“When we were kids, Emma would hide in the cubbyholes, and jump out at us,” Gilchrist says. “She’s still doing it.”

“All I did was knock on your bedroom door,” Roberts says of an incident a few days earlier. “I must have startled you out of a sleep.”

“I thought someone was coming after me with a hammer!” Gilchrist says. “And she doesn’t turn the
light on in the bathroom at night either. You go in and could wind up sitting on her lap!”

“Just saving electricity,” Roberts responds.

And just like that, the Evans sisters are back at it – arguing a little, and laughing about it a lot.

But none of them put up an argument when Inez, the oldest, offers this assessment of their new living
arrangement.

“This,” she says, “is a wonderful place to be.”

Vince Devlin is a reporter for the Missoulian. He can be reached by email at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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