A USO social leads to 70 years of happy marriage

AIKEN—A swimming party hosted by the USO in 1945 changed Donald Darr’s life.

Darr, who was in his early 20s at the time, was serving with the Army Air Corps at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.

He attended the social event with the pilot of his flight crew. His friend pointed out one of the local girls who was also a guest.

“Hey, there’s one your size!” the pilot said. Mr. Darr swam over to her to start a conversation. What started as a friendly talk in a swimming pool turned into 70 years of love and devotion.

Elizabeth Darr became his wife later that year. The couple recently claimed the title of “Longest Married Couple” at the marriage anniversary celebration Mass that was held at their home parish, St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken.

It was a chance for visitors from around the state to learn about a love that is well known to their family and friends.

Elizabeth Darr, who was born and raised in Bluffton, was working as a secretary in downtown Savannah. When she met the young airman who would later become her husband, their first conversation was about family size.

“When she told me she was one of 15, I was surprised and plunged under the water,” Mr. Darr said. “Resurfacing a few moments later, I told her I was one of five siblings and where I came from in Ohio, that was considered to be a big family.”

That first conversation turned into a courtship, and within months the couple had gone through marriage instruction with the late Msgr. Walter Donovan and were married by him at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah. Their son, Keith Darr of Aiken, said Msgr. Donovan, who passed away recently at the age of 96, always remembered the young couple he had taught and checked on them over the years, even sending them greetings on their 65th anniversary in 2011.


Shortly after their wedding, Mrs. Darr said goodbye to her new husband as he headed overseas with his flight crew.

Mr. Darr was assigned to the crew of a B-25 bomber aircraft. They initially flew from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah to Brazil, then made stops in the Ascension Islands, Casablanca, Tripoli, Cairo, and Karachi in what is now Pakistan before they made it to their base near Calcutta, India. He said their base was mainly used to send flights over the Himalayas, nicknamed the “Hump,” into other parts of India.

“As a second lieutenant, my duties included being a meteorologist, navigator and tail gunner,” he said.

He spent about a year in India and then returned home. It wasn’t long after that, Mrs. Darr said, that the couple moved to his home state where he attended Ohio State University and majored in chemical engineering.

“It was a big adjustment because I’d never seen snow, and I got my fill of it up there!” she said. “He promised me that when we retired, we’d come back to South Carolina.”

The Darrs ended up living near Akron, Ohio, for 38 years. Mr. Darr worked as a chemical engineer and Mrs. Darr was a homemaker, caring for their five children. They visited her family in Bluffton every two years or so, and when Mr. Darr retired at age 60, he kept his promise to his wife and brought her back to her home state. They moved to the country near Clemson, where they lived on a 40-acre farm, built a house and grew some crops, “mainly blueberries, which we gave to friends and families,” Mrs. Darr said.

In October, the couple moved to an assisted living facility in Aiken.

Now in their 90s, the Darrs look back on 70 years of blessings.

“He has always been a very good husband, and we’re thankful for a lot,” Mrs. Darr said. “I always knew we would do fine if we just lived up to the vows we made to each other and realized that having faith in God is everything.”

“The best thing about our long marriage is that I was always happy to come home,” Mr. Darr said. “To have a long marriage, know what is important in life and build a family for the long term.”

Keith said his parents are an inspiration to him, his wife Eva and their two daughters.

“We feel gratitude that they have been with us through these years,” he said. “We always knew how committed they were to each other and to the rest of the family. They show us how important faith is and how it has to be at the center of your life. They inspire us.”