Singer-turned-television star Della Reese passed away Sunday night at her California home. She was 86 years old.
“She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” actress Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star on Touched by an Angel, said in a statement to Variety. “She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on ‘Touched by an Angel.’ I know heaven has a brand-new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts.”
Touched by an Angel network CBS had this to say about the inspirational actress: “For nine years, we were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on Touched by an Angel. We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”
In addition to memorable roles in television and films such as A Thin Line Between Love & Hate and Harlem Nights, Reese enjoyed an early career as a big-voiced jazz singer, accumulating four Grammy nominations before transitioning into television with the 1969 show Della, the first talk show hosted by an African-American woman, according to Variety.
Rest in peace to Della Reese.