Denise Magnani - Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Homes & Crematory

Denise Magnani

September 3, 1947 - January 7, 2024

Denise Magnani passed away on January 7th, 2024, at 11:58 am at Christiana Hospital after a short illness. She was 76 years old.

Born on Staten Island at Saint Vincent’s Hospital at 1:15am, 9 months after her father returned from service overseas in WW II.

She was the oldest child of Eugene and Edythe Magnani. Her family moved to Newark, DE in 1956. Around that time her beloved Aunt Mary Anne Scolaro gave her a copy of “The Secret Garden,” at age 9, and Denise determined then that she would become a gardener and a writer.

She majored in English at the University of Delaware. Then she moved to Chicago with her first husband Edward Schweizer and her young son Matthew. While there she remembered the garden part of the equation and started the study of Plant Science when she returned to Delaware.

She worked at Winterthur for many, many years, becoming Garden Curator and in charge of the Landscape Division, and worked with restoration teams who sought to restore the garden’s integrity and beauty. But her favorite project was the Creation of “Enchanted Woods” on a 3-acre area of the gardens that had never been fully developed, and now is a place of Whimsy and Delight for visitors of all ages.

Her passion for gardening continued after selling her house in North Wilmington and moving with her husband Jonathan into the house her father, Eugene, built in 1968 in Landenberg, PA. Here they grew many native wildflowers and trees. She loved living in this house and taking long walks through the landscapes surrounding the house.

In recent years, many new families have moved into the community, adding new children, and with them has come a revitalization of our little community. With these families’ innovative ideas, new outlooks, we have joy in our heart and many smiles on our faces.

In addition to her parents, Denise was preceded in death by her brothers, Barry Magnani and Ray Magnani. She is survived by her loving husband, Jonathan Kissell; younger brother, Gene Magnani; son, Matthew Schweizer; grandsons, Maxwell and Jacob Schweizer; her Aunt Mary Anne (Dom) Scolaro; and Aron (Kelly) Kissell; and grandchildren, Olive, Sage, Meadow and Ivy.

A visitation for family and friends will be held from 12 pm until 1pm on Sunday, January 21, 2024, at Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Home, 121 West Park Place, Newark, DE, where a time of sharing will begin at 12:30 pm.

In lieu of flowers, please consider supporting one of the causes that Denise championed so often in life, and make a donation to the Newark Center for Creative Learning, NCCL School c/o Annual Fund, 401 Phillips Avenue, Newark, DE 19711 or online by clicking here.


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4 Condolences for Denise Magnani

  • she was a beautiful person, she will be sorely missed by everyone in her life.

  • My condolences to Denise’s family and friends.
    I always enjoyed my interactions with Denise as a colleague in public horticulture. She showed an infectious enthusiasm for her work and a passion for horticulture. Reading her life story helps to explain the aura she radiated. May you find peace in this premature and sudden loss of her light.

  • I worked with Denise at Winterthur for many years and was so sorry to hear of her passing, She will be missed by all who knew her.

  • Denise was a delight to know and to be with. It was my pleasure and great good fortune to work with her and for her for over twenty years at Winterthur where she left as her legacy the wonderful Enchanted Woods, having had the original concept and then shepherding the idea through to its conclusion. She became one of my dearest friends in our time together and I am greatly saddened by her early and unexpected death.