One Hundred Years Young

Local couple share their Red Cross story 

Written By: Katelyn DeManche

Last fall, Ursula Sowinski, Red Cross donor development officer, joined by Jan Radke, senior director of military and international services, and her husband Lee Radke Red Cross volunteer and veteran, visited Robert and Virginia Darden who reside in Connecticut. The Dardens are Red Cross supporters who recently celebrated their 100th birthdays!  During their visit, Mr. Darden narrated his life story on how he was a navigator of the YB-40 bomber and commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. On June 22, 1943, Mr. Darden’s plane was shot down while participating in a raid in the Ruhr industrial district.

As a result of this, he, along with the rest of the crew, parachuted into German territory where he was ultimately captured by Nazi border patrol officers in the dark of night.

Robert and Virginia Darden
Ursula Sowinski, Red Cross donor development officer (Left) and Jan Radke, senior director of Military and International Services (Right) present a Red Cross challenge coin and other Red Cross military inspired items to Robert and Virginia Darden.

This night defined Mr. Darden’s life as he became a prisoner of war in Germany for two years before being liberated by Allies. Mr. Darden explained how although he was isolated from humanity, the Red Cross still sent him, and his crew candy bars filled with nuts and raisins. This helped Mr. Darden and other soldiers survive under harsh conditions while in captivity.

After hearing Mr. Darden’s story and how the Red Cross helped to save his life, Ursula, Jan, and Lee were incredibly inspired. Mr. Darden epitomizes humility and humbleness. His ability to capture this integral aspect of his life through the spoken word was beyond impressive to his audience and they wanted to show their gratitude for his service and bravery. Jan bestowed Mr. Darden a Red Cross challenge coin while Ursula and Lee accorded their Red Cross military hats and pins to both Mr. and Mrs. Darden.

To learn more about how the Red Cross supports veterans, please visit

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