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Strong family bonds bring five sisters home

Coming full circle

ST. IGNATIUS – Ella Gilchrist, 89, sat in a rocking chair in her home and jokingly said most people would rather kill their siblings than ever have to live with them as adults. 

She looked at her four sisters sitting around her in the living room last week, and they laughed together. The statement was particularly funny to the sisters because they do live together, all five of them, between the ages of 84 and 95. 

Inez Pounds, 95, is the big sister of the bunch. She said the girls get along pretty well. They have an occasional squabble, but the family bond makes it easy to work things out. 

“You just remember that it’s your sister, you’re thankful to have her, and you move on,” she said.

Lila Faye Krantz, 84, is the baby of the family, and she said many people have commented that even if they got along with their siblings, they still wouldn’t want to live with them. Emma Roberts, 92, nodded her head and said some people think the situation is a little weird. 

Eva Bauer, 90, frowned and responded to the weird comment, “No it’s not. This was a great idea.” 

The plan to live in the same house came about when Lila Faye made the suggestion a few years ago. She thought it would be nice if the sisters were in one place. They all lived along U.S. Highway 93 between Polson and St. Ignatius. All widows, they figured it was a good idea to combine resources and live together.

Emma said having family around also keeps them from being alone and getting depressed. “We are really special to each other,” she said.

Moving in together involved some work. The decision was made to remodel Lila Faye’s farmhouse, so they could each have their own space. Once that was finished, they moved in together in 2014.

The women hire some help, but Eva does most of the cooking. She said she doesn’t really mind. The other sisters take turns doing dishes. They said the their neighbors, the McAllisters, help them with snow removal and some outdoor chores. 

The sisters grew up on a farm six miles away from their current home, although they still have a similar view of the Mission Mountains. The house they once lived in together as children was a lot smaller than the one they are in now. Jesse and Lila Evans, their parents, moved to the area to homestead in 1910. The family raised milk cows and grew hay.

With 11 Evans siblings, the odds of having five sisters in one family were pretty good. One sister died as a child and another adult sister passed away. Their four brothers have also died. 

The sisters like to talk about a time before they were born when their father put a barn on logs and used a team of horses to move the structure to another location. They explained that a lot of the work was done with horses back then. 

They also remember the way their mother kept from ruining her shoes. In the 1900s, Dixon had three hotels and a train station, they said. Their mother took off her shoes when she walked on the dusty roads in the small town to keep them from getting dirty. 

The women also have fond memories of sitting around the dinner table as children. Their father would do a head count to make sure everyone was at the table. “We always had family meals together,” Eva said. “I think that might be what helped make us so close.” 

The kids kept busy with chores on the farm and riding horses. Four of the five sisters started school in a one-room schoolhouse in Charlo before the current school was expanded to include elementary students. The youngest sister, Lila Faye, never attended the one-room school but rather attended all grades at the larger Charlo School District. The girls recalled walking a mile from their house to the highway and then getting on a small school bus that was more like a truck.

World War II started when the sisters began graduating from high school. They all traveled to Washington within a 10-year time span to find different jobs, including restaurant work, picking berries, and other occupations. Emma got a job building airplanes. She said it was much like what the iconic Rosie the Riveters were doing, but she was a welder. 

The sisters each eventually moved back to Montana and got married. Ella was the only one who went back to Washington with her husband where she lived for 40 years before returning to Montana. 

The women each have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Eva said it takes her about two hours on Facebook to look through all the posts about her 60 or so great-grandchildren. 

Their families get together every two years for a reunion, and although not everyone gets there, about 200 family members usually show up. Besides planning family reunions, the sisters have busy schedules. They often load up in their car and travel to Charlo or St. Ignatius to socialize at the senior centers. When they are home, they like to play cards, work on crossword puzzles, and just spend time together. 

“I think life has been great, and I’m glad we’ve gotten to spend this time together,” Lila Faye said. She then reminded her sisters that it was time to go if they were going to make it to another appointment, and off they went. 

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