'Touched by an Angel' star Della Reese dead at 86

'Touched by an Angel' star Della Reese dead at 86

(Source: Wiki Commons) (Source: Wiki Commons)

(RNN) - Singer Della Reese passed away peacefully at the age of 86 on Monday, according to People.

In a statement posted to Instagram, Touched by an Angel costar Roma Downey wrote on behalf of Reese's family:

"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 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. 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." she wrote.

A post shared by Roma Downey?? (@romadowney) on

Touched by an Angel star Della Reese was born on July 6, 1931 in Detroit.

She began singing at 6 years old in her family's church and was discovered by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. At 13, she was hired to sing with Jackson's gospel group.

Later, Reese formed her own gospel group, the Meditation Singers, who were allegedly the first to perform gospel music in night clubs in Las Vegas and were listed in the "Who's Who of Gospel Music."

Reese began making records and started her TV career in the 1950s. In 1953, she signed with Jubilee Records and joined the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra.

Some of her first recording with Jubilee were "I've Got my Love to Keep Me Warm" and "In the Still of the Night."

She was later nominated for Best Female Soloist in Gospel Music Grammy music award.

Outside of her singing career, she was a regular guest on The Ed Sullivan Show. She hosted a TV talk show from 1969 to 1970 and starred in TV shows including Stanford and Son and Picket Fences in the 1980s.

In 1970 Reese became a guest host for the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson - where she was the first black woman to serve as guest host.

In 2002, she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and became a national spokesperson for an educational campaign called "Della Reese: Stronger than Diabetes."

Reese was ordained as a minister by the Universal Foundation for Better Living in 1987. She later founded the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles.

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