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One of the most accomplished women to ever grace the American industries of music and film died peacefully at her California residence this past Sunday night (November 19).
Variety Magazine reported on Monday (November 20) that Della Reese (pictured) passed away at the age of 86. In the later stages of her career in entertainment, Reese was best known for her role as “Tess” on the long-running CBS television show Touched by an Angel.
Roma Downey, a notable actress and Touched by an Angel co-star who had a close relationship with Reese gave a statement confirming the legendary entertainer’s death. Downey learned a lot alongside Reese for a number of years as the two of them worked on the set of the CBS show.
“[Reese] 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. 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,’ she said.
“I know heaven has a brand new angel today. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts,” Downey went on to say in her statement.
Although an official cause of death has not been confirmed, it has been known that Reese was diagnosed with diabetes after suffering a brain aneurysm in the late 1970s. However, she persevered and continued her career in music and television valiantly.
Reese’s career in entertainment started more than 70 years ago when she was just 13-years-old. At that tender age, she impressed the great Mahalia Jackson with her powerful singing voice and went on gospel tours with Jackson five years in a row. Reese grew up to crossover into singing in other music genres, such as jazz, R&B, and pop.
During her singing career, she flourished as a superior vocal talent and a prominent symbol of beauty. In television and film, she was a pioneer who paved the way for women like Queen Latifah and Oprah Winfrey. Reese is the first black woman ever to host her own television talk show, which first aired in 1969.
She also starred in the 1989 Eddie Murphy-produced cult classic Harlem Nights, which was co-starred in by Murphy himself, his late brother Charlie, the late Richard Pryor, the late Redd Foxx, the late Robin Harris, and many more legendary black actors and actresses.
Reese leaves a husband and three children to mourn her in death. However, her illustrious legacy of strength and excellence will live on.