A lot of us knew Della as Tess from Touched By An Angel, but her career began waaaaaay before then. Della (born Delloreese Early) began singing gospel music in public at the age of 6. By the time she was 13, she was already touring in Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group. It’s also around the same time she started to perform by the name we all know her for.
Della added acting to the mix in the 60s when she showed up in everything from Sanford and Son to MacGyver. She was even the first black woman to co-host The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. After one of her Tonight Show performances, she suffered a major brain aneurysm that was nearly fatal. She became an ordained minister after the health scare, which came in handy by the time the 90s rolled around and she was offered Touched By An Angel. She and Roma Downey remained super close, which suddenly makes sense that Roma was the one who issued the official statement about Della’s passing:
“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.”
John Carroll Dye, who played Andrew on the show, died of a heart attack back in 2011, making Roma the only living cast member of the show. Della is survived by her husband Franklin Lett, and her children James, Franklin and Dominique.
Unlike the garbage person who also died last night and clearly hopped aboard a one-way train to Hell, Della Reese was a heavenly glow, and I am most certain she will be invited to share co-greeting duties with St. Peter at the gates of Heaven going forward. And I hope she greets everyone with her cover of “Come On-A My House” to all those who make the cut.