Della Reese died Sunday night at her home in California.
Reese’s family said in a statement:
“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.”
Reese became a music star with her No. 1 R&B and No. 2 pop hit “Don’t You Know” in 1959. Subsequent releases showed off her mastery of standards, jazz and contemporary pop through the early ’70s, and over the course of her career she received four Grammy Award nominations
In 1969, she launched a TV show, Della. She went on to make television guest appearances before getting a starring role in the hit 1975-78 Jack Albertson-Freddie Prinze comedy series Chico and the Man.
Other credits include roles on It Takes Two, Crazy Like a Fox, Charlie & Co. and The Royal Family. Film credits include Harlem Nights, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate along with numerous made-for-TV films.
Most people know her from her role on Touched by an Angel. She co-stared Roma Downey and performed the show’s theme song, “Walk With You.” The series ran for nine seasons, winning Reese seven consecutive NAACP Image Awards as best lead actress in a drama and collecting two Emmy nominations and a 1998 Golden Globe nod.
Reese is survived by her husband Franklin Lett, a film producer and concert promoter. She was 86.