Della Reese, who segued from pop and jazz singing stardom in the ‘50s and ‘60s to a long career as a popular TV actress on “Touched by an Angel” and other shows, died Sunday night at her home in California. She was 86.“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,” actress Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star on “Touched By an Angel,” said in a statement announcing Reese’s death. “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.”CBS, home of “Touched By an Angel,” also hailed Reese’s legacy as an entertainer who focused her career on uplifting her audience.
“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 said. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”
Reared in gospel, Reese became a seductive, big-voiced secular music star with her No. 1 R&B and No. 2 pop hit “Don’t You Know” in 1959. The 45, her first single on RCA Records, was a ballad drawn from an aria from Puccini’s opera “La Boheme.”