Della Reese of ‘Touched by an Angel’ dead at 86

Della Reese
This October 1991 file photo shows actress Della Reese. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

LOS ANGELES (AP/WOOD) — Della Reese, the actress and gospel-influenced singer who in middle age found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama “Touched by an Angel,” has died at age 86.

A family representative released a statement Monday that Reese died peacefully Sunday evening in California. No cause of death or additional details were provided.

Reese was a Detroit native, according to NBC affiliate WDIV.

In a post on Instagram, former co-star Roma Downey called Reese an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend and pastor as well as an award-winning actress and singer.

Heaven has a brand new angel Della today 🕊🕊🕊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. 🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊 #touchedbyanangel #dellareese

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

“Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people. She was a mother to me,” Downey stated.

“I know heaven has a brand new angel this day,” she added.

Before “Touched by an Angel” debuted in 1994, Reese was mainly known as a singer, although she had costarred on “Chico and the Man,” ″Charlie and Company” and “The Royal Family” and hosted her own talk show, “Della.”

She appeared on numerous shows such as “Night Court,” ″L.A. Law,” and “Designing Women,” but wrote in her 1997 autobiography that she had difficulty being typecast until she landed her “Touched by an Angel” role.