Veteran actress Della Reese, best known for Touched By An Angel, has died aged 86.
She died at home in California.
“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,” Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star on Touched By an Angel, said in a statement.
Reese portrayed Downey’s heavenly boss in the drama, which aired from 1994 to 2003. Each episode featured her character Tess assigning rookie angel Monica (Downey) with human cases of people stuck at crossroads in their lives.
“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.”
“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, ” CBS said in a statement. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”
Other TV credits included Chico and the Man, The Young and the Restless, That’s So Raven, Promised Land, Picket Fences, LA Law, Macgyver, Night Court, The A Team, Welcome Back Kotter, The Love Boat, Medical Center, Police Woman, Police Story, Mod Squad, Petrocelli, and The Royal Family.
In 1969 she had launched her TV show Della – the first talk show hosted by an African-American woman – and had begun a move into an acting career that would take her to even greater prominence.
Reese was also a gifted singer, attaining a No. 1 R&B and No. 2 pop hit with Don’t You Know in 1959.
Her career included standards, jazz and contemporary pop through the early ‘70s, and four Grammy nominations.
Dionne Warwick said, “We have lost another voice that I’m sure God will use in that great heavenly choir.”
Reese once said of her music, “I had good training for it. I was always a stylist, a lyricist. I became acquainted with the words in order to convince you I must believe in what I’m singing. That’s what acting is: believing. It was just like one thing flowing into another.”