Actress and singer Delloreese “Della Reese” Patricia Early, best known for her role as Tess on the TV show “Touched By an Angel,” has passed away.
As People reports, Reese was 86 years old. She is survived by her children — James, Franklin, and Dominique — and her husband, Franklin Lett.Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Following her passing, one of her former co-stars, Roma Downey, released a statement on Reese’s family’s behalf:
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. 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.”
According to People, Reese struggled with health issues including diabetes and blamed the illness on “poor diet and exercise.” She retired from acting in 2014, 80 years after she first began singing publicly.
While she started singing in her church choir at 6 years old, Della Reese didn’t become a household name until she was 26, when she released the song “And That Reminds Me,” which became not only a Top 20 Hit, but her first global seller. She would go on to create other mega hits such as “Don’t You Know,” “Not One Minute More,” “And Now,” “Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You),” and “The Most Beautiful Words.”
Prior to landing her role on “Touched By an Angel,” Reese became an ordained minister and started a church called “Understanding Principles for Better Living,” also known as “UP Church.”
According to People, she used her deeply rooted faith to help her with her character, Tess.