Della Reese Dead at 86: Touched By an Angel Star Has Died

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Della Reese, the vocal powerhouse who later starred as heaven-sent Tess on the tv sequence Touched By an Angel, died Sunday night at age 86.

She leaves behind youngsters James, Franklin and Dominique, in addition to husband Franklin Lett. She was predeceased by daughter Deloreese.

“On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has pbaded away peacefully at her California home last evening surrounded by love. 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,” her costar Roma Downey confirmed to PEOPLE in an unique badertion.

“She was a mom to me and I had the privilege of working together with her aspect by aspect for thus a few years on Touched By an Angel. I do know heaven has a model new angel today. Della Reese will likely be ceaselessly in our hearts. Rest in peace, candy angel. We love you.”

Roma Downey and Della Reese in 2013

Roma Downey and Della Reese in 2013

“We’re deeply saddened to learn of the pbading of Della Reese,” CBS tells PEOPLE in an announcement. :She was a multi-talented, award-winning performer who shined brightly on soundstages and in live performance halls. For 9 years, we have been privileged to have Della as a part of the CBS household when she delivered encouragement and optimism to thousands and thousands of viewers as Tess on Touched By an Angel. We will ceaselessly cherish her heat embraces and generosity of spirit. She will likely be significantly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

Born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931 in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood, Reese started singing in public at simply 6 years outdated at her native church, establishing her roots in gospel music. Her vocal expertise flourished and by 13 she was tapped to carry out with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group, with whom she’d later tour.

CBS/Courtesy Everett Collection

She fashioned her personal group, the Meditation Singers, within the late 1940s, however her publicity to jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan sparked a need to broaden her musical scope. Now utilizing her well-known stage identify, she signed a take care of Jubilee Records in 1953, releasing six albums largely composed of jazz requirements.

National fame would are available in 1957 with the discharge of “And That Reminds Me,” a Top 20 hit and her first world vendor.

She adopted it up with “Don’t You Know?” — which might grow to be her signature track, and a string of hits together with “Not One Minute More, “And Now,” “Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You),”  and “The Most Beautiful Words.”

Della Reese

Della Reese

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

In the late ’60s she started to increase her profession from a jazz nightclub act to all-around entertainer by breaking into tv. She turned a well-recognized face on the small display screen, securing visitor spots on a number of reveals, together with The Mod Squad, The Love Boat, Sanford and Son, MacGyver, Night Court, and The Young and the Restless.

Her short-lived selection sequence, Della, debuted in 1969, and the next 12 months she turned the primary black girl to co-host The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It was after a Tonight Show look in 1979 that Reese suffered a mind aneurysm that almost claimed her life.

Reese turned an ordained minister within the 1980s by way of the Christian New Thought department generally known as Unity, main her to discovered her personal church, Understanding Principles for Better Living (also called “UP Church”).

She would draw on her religion for her most well-known performing position, enjoying the half “supervising angel” Tess on the CBS sequence Touched By an Angel starting in 1994. Though the present was initially met with combined critiques, it went on to grow to be an enormous success, operating till 2003. Tess’ playful sarcasm and no-nonsense angle added one thing of a humorous edge to the healthful present, and she or he turned its most beloved character.

Reese was plagued with well being issues later in life, together with a battle with diabetes which she blamed on poor weight loss plan and train. Following two appearances on the tv present Signed, Sealed, Delivered in 2014, she retired from performing.

  • Reporting by PATRICK GOMEZ and SAMANTHA MILLER
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