Touched By An Angel was a show like no other. Rarely did we see a television program based so heavily in faith, and that's why we loved it. Every week, we learned a little more about God and a little more about ourselves, too.
Della Reese played our favorite angel, Tess. She was a wise, mothering type, who always gave tough love and great advice. Roma Downey, her co-star, even said Reese was like a mother to her.
"She's very wise. She's very loving," Downey said. "She can be a little gruff at times, but she's always adoring and adorable. I lost my mother when I was very young, and during my whole adolescence and into my twenties, I'd been looking for a mother figure, and I really think I can say with absolute truth and sincerity that I feel that I finally found her in Della Reese. I think I'll just always remember the feel of her neck against my cheek when she hugs me and the love I know that she has for me and the love that I feel for her and the love that she has for God. To know Della is to know that she loves God."
A jazz singer in her own right, Della Reese shot to fame in 1957 with the release of "And That Reminds Me" which landed her on the Top 20 chart. In 1961, she was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Female Pop Performance on her show, Della.
Reese had a few TV appearances after Touched By An Angel, but her life was interrupted when she began experiencing complications from type II diabetes.
“My life is at stake,” she said. “I don’t have type 2 diabetes — type 2 diabetes has me.”
Reese was confined to a wheelchair after two brain surgeries resulting from diabetes complications. The world did not realize how bad Reese's condition had gotten until 2014 when she appeared at Roma Downey's Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony.
Sadly, Della Reese lost her battle with diabetes at the age of 86. Roma Downey released a touching statement regarding the news.
“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,” Downey confirmed to PEOPLE in a statement. “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.”
Reese leaves behind her children James, Franklin, and Dominique, as well as her husband, Franklin Lett. She was predeceased by daughter Deloreese, who passed away in 2002 from a pituitary dysfunction.
Thank you, Della Reese, for all you did in both music and television. We just know you are in heaven with John Dye and are singing along to your favorite songs. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.