Della Reese, the iconic actress and music icon best known for her starring roles in movies like Harlem Nights and dozens of TV series such as Touched By An Angel, has died. She was 86 years old.
How did Della Reese die? What was her cause of death?
While her official cause of death hasn’t been revealed, the beloved singer and actress had reportedly battled diabetes for years, and her family said she passed away Sunday (Nov. 19) in her California home.
Her Angel co-star and longtime friend Roma Downey released the following statement exclusively to People:
“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.”
Della Reese (born: Delloreese Patricia Early) co-starred alongside Roma Downey on “Touched by An Angel,” playing the role of the angel supervisor Tess. Reese had other TV roles in shows like The Mod Squad, Police Woman, Sanford and Son, The Love Boat, Crazy Like a Fox, 227, MacGyver, Designing Women, Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven, The Young and the Restless and many more.
Reese also appeared as a panelist on several episodes of the popular TV game show Match Game, and was the first black woman to guest host The Tonight Show in 1970.
In addition to her co-starring role alongside Eddie Murphy as brothel club owner madam Vera in Harlem Nights, Reese also appeared in the films A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and Beauty Shop, among others. She also played the voice of the wise, elderly dinosaur Eema in Walt Disney’s CGI film Dinosaur.
Della Reese was also an accomplished gospel singer, having been discovered by Mahalia Jackson when she was just 13 years old, and went on to become an ordained minister in the 1980s.
Della Reese was preceded in death by her daughter, Deloreese, and leaves behind children James, Franklin, and Dominique, as well as her husband, Franklin Lett.