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'Touched by an Angel' Star Della Reese Dead at 86

'Touched by an Angel' Star Della Reese Dead at 86

Singer and actress Della Reese, who starred on “Touched by an Angel,” has died, People magazine reports. She was 86.

Reese had suffered from health problems in her later years, including diabetes, but no cause of death was given.

Her "Touched by an Angel" co-star Roma Downey confirmed the news in a statement to the magazine, saying, "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.”

Downey continued, “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 as an R&B and pop singer, logging the #1 R&B smash "Don't You Know" in 1959. After appearing on "The Ed Sullivan Show" numerous times, she became the host of “Della” in 1969, making her the first African-American talk show host. In 1970, she was the first black woman to fill in as guest host on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

Reese's most famous role was as Tess on "Touched by an Angel" (1994-2003) and "Promised Land" (1996-1998), and she had also been a regular on "Chico and the Man" (1975-1978) and "The Royal Family" (1991-1992), among others.

Some of Reese’s many TV movies include, “A Very Mary Christmas” (2010), “Hallelujah” (2011), “Christmas Angel" (2012), “Dear Secret Santa” (2013) and “Miracle at Gate 123" (2013).