LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — Della Reese, the actress and gospel-influenced singer who in middle age found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama “Touched by an Angel,” has died at age 86.
The “Touched By An Angel” star passed away Sunday night at her California home, actress Roma Downey, who co-starred in “Touched” with Reese, said in a statement released on behalf of Reese’s family.
No cause of death or additional details were provided.
“Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” Downey said. “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.”
CBS, which aired “Touched by an Angel” from 1994-2003, also released a statement honoring Reese as someone who “delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess” on the show: “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”
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”.
Reese also made television history when she became the first black woman to host her own talk show, with 1969’s “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.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)