The multi-talented performer began her career at age 13, dazzling music and television lovers over her decades-long career.
Della Reese who enjoyed dual careers, first as a jazz and pop singer and later as a TV star on CBS’ Touched By An Angel, has died at age 86.
Her representative, Lynda Bensky, confirmed her death to USA TODAY, noting, “We lost a magnificent woman who was a trailblazer in many ways.”
A statement sent to USA TODAY from her Touched by An Angel co-star, Roma Downey, and Reese’s family said the star “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.”
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.
She appeared on numerous shows such as Night Court, L.A. Law and Designing Women, but wrote in her 1997 autobiography that she had difficulty being typecast until she landed her Touched by an Angel role.
Touched by an Angel struggled with ratings in its first season, but the show grew to become one of television’s highest-rated dramas. The show followed an apprentice angel (Roma Downey) and her supervisor (Reese) who were sent to Earth to solve people’s problems.
In a statement sent to USA TODAY by CBS spokeswoman Diane Ekeblad, the network said they were “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Della Reese, 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…