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Della Reese, singer and Touched by an Angel star, dies at 86

21 November 2017

"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". No further details were included. The church, called Understanding Principles for Better Living, known as UP, later moved to its own facilities and Reese became known as The Reverend Dr. Della Reese Lett.

"Touched by an Angel" was a gamble for CBS from the start. She describes her work as a regular on the series The Royal Family and relates the story of the tragic demise of series star Redd Foxx, after a collapse on the set. It lasted until 2003.

"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 told the outlet. 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.

Before "Touched by an Angel" debuted in 1994, Ms. Reese had a long career headlining at major nightclubs, including the Copacabana in NY and the Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood, and a string of major recording successes.

A theatrical agent helped her land a job in NY singing for nine months with the Erskine Hawkins' jazz orchestra. And by 13-years-old, she was asked to perform with Mahalia Jackson's gospel group, who she later toured with. Drake operated on her for five hours.

The actress sang the theme song "Walk With You" on "Angel", and on its soundtrack CD that featured artists Amy Grant and Faith Hill and reached No. 1 on the chart for contemporary Christian music, Carpenter said. In 1957 she recorded the single All That Reminds Me which became a top 20 hit and sold over a million records. She was also a trailblazer.

Her left knee buckled and she fell to the floor, having suffered a brain aneurysm.

"She was the most consistently positive and optimistic person I have known". Perhaps most famously in the decade, she appeared in the Eddie Murphy movie Harlem Nights.

"C'mon sucka, let's get it on", Vera snarls, then decks him.

After acting in situation comedies, in the 1990s Reese began the role in "Touched by an Angel" of Tess, the senior seraph on the CBS drama, who advised Monica, her apprentice-angel played by Downey. She was an incredible Wife, Mother, Grandmother, friend, and Pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. "God knows how I wanted to break out of those three categories and show what else I could do as an actress".

"I'm trying not to believe it's because I'm black, 'cause I was black when they hired me", Reese said at the time.

Her marriages to Vermont Taliaferro and Leroy Gray ended in divorce.

Reese never won a major award but she did accomplish something in her career that was the envy of many performers - longevity.

In 1969 Reese began a television hosting career with a talk show - also titled Della - that ran for a year.

Della Reese, singer and Touched by an Angel star, dies at 86