FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – People around the world are mourning the loss of a Fort Wayne entrepreneur and philanthropist. Denise DeMarchis, the founder of the children’s clothing line Matilda Jane, lost her battle with cancer Tuesday.
DeMarchis was much more than a business woman. She was a mentor, a friend and a mother-figure to so many. She created Matilda Jane in 2005 to make clothes for little girls so they can keep looking and feeling like little girls.
“We just happened to sell clothes, but our true purpose was to give back,” Kayla Henderson, who’s worked at Matilda Jane for the last seven years, said.
In 2013, DeMarchis and her husband founded the Mighty Acorn Foundation to help even more children in Africa.
Those who knew and loved her said Denise had a big heart and changed the world through her generosity and kindness.
“She believes in caring about people and brightening someone’s day. If it’s something as small as telling the McDonald’s lady her earrings were beautiful or as big as funding an orphanage in Africa, there were no limits to what she wanted to do as far as bettering the world,” Henderson said.
Children in Africa would call her “Mama Denise,” but she was a mom-like mentor to many in Fort Wayne too.
“She changed my entire life and I’m going to work hard to live on for her and do things she believed in. I can’t imagine coming to Friendly Fox without her or designing without her,” Sam McDonald, who started as a packer at Matilda Jane and worked her way up to being DeMarchis’ design partner, said. “Her heart is solid gold, but her brain is full of diamonds and they sparkle in every design she’s done and every gift she’s given and every note she’s written. She leaves a lasting impression on you if you met her for five seconds or for five years.”
Two years ago, DeMarchis was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She beat it, but the cancer came back and about a month ago, it was found in several places in her body. She passed away Tuesday at age 41. She is survived by her husband and two sons, ages 13 and nine.
Visitation is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at D.O. McComb and Sons Foster Park Funeral Home at 6301 Fairfield Avenue and again from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Wayne. The funeral service will immediately follow on Friday.