Della Reese, known for her amazing career in singing and starring in the hit show Touched By An Angel has died at the age of 86 on Sunday, November 19, 2017.
Reese is survived her husband Franklin Lett and children James, Franklin, and Dominque. She was predeceased by her daughter Deloreese.
“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,” her co-star Roma Downey confirmed to PEOPLE in an exclusive statement.
Born in Detroit on July 6, 1931, Reese began singing at the young age of 6-years-old at her church. Growing in her talent, at the age of 13 she performed with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group who she later went on tour with.
In the late 1940’s she formed her own group called the Meditation Singers. Her exposure to jazz artists Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn caused her to expand her knowledge of music. Signing a deal with Jubilee Records in 1953, she released six albums that consisted mostly of jazz music.
She rose to fame in 1957 with her song And That Reminds Me that reached the Top 20 and became her first global hit. The song she’s most known for Don’t You Know? followed soon after her first hit.
She got into the world of television in the 1960’s guest starring on shows like The Mod Squad, The Love Boat, The Young And The Restless and many more.
She became the first Black woman to co-host The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. Soon after she suffered a brain aneurysm in 1979 that almost took her life.
She bounced back in 1980 when she became an ordained pastor. In 1994 is when Reese played the iconic part of the supervising angel Tess in the CBS Touched By An Angel.
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(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)