Della Reese, Singer and 'Touched by an Angel' Star, Dies at 86

Katie Roberts
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Della Reese, who forged a decades-long musical career before starring on the beloved drama "Touched by an Angel," has died. She was 86.

Roma Downey, Reese's longtime "Angel" costar, released a statement to People confirming the news, and praising her longtime collaborator and friend. According to the actress, Reese died on the evening of November 19 at her California home, surrounded by family and friends. No cause of death was given.

Downey's statement said:

"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 passed 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.

"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. Rest in peace, sweet angel. We love you."

Reese began her career in the late 1940s as a gospel singer, and eventually began to dabble in jazz, releasing multiple albums of standards throughout the 1950s. She scored several hits of original music in the decades that followed, and in the 1960s, began what would become a longtime television career, guest starring on iconic series such as "The Mod Squad," "The Love Boat," "Sanford and Son," "MacGyver," "Night Court," and "The Young and the Restless."

But the actress would become forever entwined with her most famous role, on CBS series "Touched by an Angel," in which she played Tess, an angel who supervises other angels. The show ran for nine seasons, from 1994 through 2003, and was a popular, family-friendly staple.

CBS also released a statement to People about Reese's passing:

"We're deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Della Reese. She was a multi-talented, award-winning performer who shined brightly on soundstages and in concert halls. 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."

Reese is survived by her husband, Franklin Lett, and her children James, Franklin, and Dominique. She was predeceased by her daughter, Deloreese.

[via: People]

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