Touched By An Angel star Della Reese has died at age 86.
The actress and gospel-influenced singer found her greatest fame in middle age as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama.
Reese’s co-star on the series, Roma Downey, paid tribute to her onetime co-star.
‘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,’ Downey wrote in a statement. ‘I know heaven has a brand new angel this day.’
Della Reese found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama Touched By An Angel, has died at age 86; she is seen here in 2010
Downey added that Reese died peacefully Sunday evening in her home in the Los Angeles area. No further details were included.
Before Touched By An Angel debuted in 1994, Reese was mainly known as a singer, although she had costarred on Chico And The Man, Charlie And Company and The Royal Family and hosted her own talk show, Della.
Touched By An Angel was a gamble for CBS from the start. The story of an apprentice angel (Roma Downey) and her supervisor (Reese) being sent to Earth to solve people’s problems appeared to have little chance in a TV world dominated by sitcoms and police dramas.
Critically acclaimed: Reese, nominated for best dramatic actress for her role in the television series Touched by an Angel, arrives for the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles in 1998
Co-stars and friends: Della as Tess, Roma Downey as Monica and John Dye as Andrew in Touched By An Angel in 1986
The first season brought mediocre ratings, but slowly the show’s audience grew until it became one of television’s highest rated dramas. It lasted until 2003.
She had been ordained by the Chicago-based Universal Foundation for Better Living, and when co-star Downey got married, Reese performed the ceremony.
Reese’s singing career also began in church, when she joined the junior gospel choir at the Olivet Baptist Church in her hometown of Detroit. Soon she was singing at other churches, at civic events and on the radio.
Young star:Reese’s singing career also began in church, when she joined the junior gospel choir at the Olivet Baptist Church in her hometown of Detroit. Soon she was singing at other churches, at civic events and on the radio
When Mahalia Jackson, known as The Queen of Gospel Music, came to Detroit, she needed a singer to replace a member of her troupe. She turned to Reese, who was only 13.
Jackson was so impressed by the teenager’s voice that she enlisted her for a summer tour, and Reese went on to tour with her for five summers. In later years she would remark that she would never forget what she learned from the legendary gospel singer, including ‘how to communicate with people through song.’
Reese is survived by her husband, Franklin Lett, and three children.
Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.