Obituary: Clifford Joachim Darken

May 2, 1930 – October 2, 2023

Clifford Darken died in the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 21, in the Care Center at Scandia Village, a retirement home in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. He was 93.

Cliff had been a resident of Door County since 1986, when he and wife Josephine first moved to a cottage on North Orchard Lane, Ephraim, where they spent the early years of their retirement. Living in Door County was a dream come true, a dream he inherited from his own father, who had brought the family to the peninsula for summer vacations and fishing trips in the 1930s and 40s.

Cliff thoroughly enjoyed his retirement years. He was an avid gardener. He loved to sit on his deck and watch the birds, foxes, deer, and other wildlife that passed through his yard. With patience and practice, he taught chipmunks to climb into his lap and eat seeds from his hand. Cliff took art classes at The Clearing, where he developed his skills at watercolor painting and wood carving. For a number of years he worked part-time in the gift shop at the Wagon Trail Resort, where he enjoyed interacting with guests and employees. He was a member of the Ephraim Men’s Club. Cliff and Jo were also long-time members of the Fish Creek Seventh-day Adventist Church and, later, of the Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church. Cliff’s faith in Jesus was a core part of his identity.

Cliff was proud of his Danish heritage and maintained active relationships with family in Denmark. One highlight of his life was a six-week trip to Denmark in 1989, where he renewed and strengthened family ties in person one last time. Cliff also enjoyed hosting visitors from Denmark, especially Jørgen and Lena Madsen, with whom Cliff and Jo traveled all around the United States on several epic road trips.

He was born Clifford Joachim Darken on May 2, 1930, in Chicago to Danish immigrants Rudolph and Karen Darken and grew up in the suburb of Elmwood Park. He was the second child by 10 years after brother Helmer. The family moved back to Denmark in 1935, permanently as they thought, but either because a business deal fell through or because of impending war in Europe, the move did not take and the family returned to the Chicago area. After only a few months in Denmark, five-year old Cliff had forgotten all his English, now knew only Danish, and had to relearn English.

Cliff followed Helmer to Steinmetz High School and, during that time, started to work part-time for Illinois Tool Works (ITW). After high school he worked full-time as a lab technician in the heat-treat department, where steel cutting tools were made durable through a hardening process. In 1955 he was drafted and served two years in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in the Panama Canal Zone. After being discharged he returned to ITW, where he met Josephine Coppola, a legal secretary, and they married in 1963.

Son Christian Joachim was born in 1964, followed by Rudolph Poul in 1966 and Robert Clifford in 1973. To make room for their growing family, Cliff and Jo moved in 1966 to a bungalow in the western suburb of Hillside. Late in his career Cliff was promoted to head metallurgist in the heat-treat department. He took early retirement from ITW in 1985, at age 55, after 37 years of service. He and Jo spent a year living in Connecticut before making the move to Door County.

Cliff is survived by wife Josephine and sons Chris, Rudy, and Bob, as well as eight grandchildren.

Cliff was laid to rest in Little Sister Cemetery in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.

Casperson Funeral Home of Sister Bay is assisting the Darken family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Cliff may be shared with his family through his tribute page at