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By Shannon Frost Greenstein

Legend Della Reese, sadly, has passed away at 86 years of age.

You surely recognize her face, as she played Tess on “Touched By an Angel” from 1994-2003 on CBS.  However, her start was in music, and she made quite the name for herself there, too.

In the late 1940s, she formed her own group, The Meditation Singers.  Strongly influenced by jazz heavyweights such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, she signed a deal with Jubilee Records in 1953.  She went on to release six jazzy albums, and had a breakout single in 1959, called, “Don’t You Know?”

In the ’60s, she moved to television and film, hosting her own talk show called “Della.”  She appeared in a number of films, such as Harlem Nights (1989), and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996).  Her most recent television appearance was a part on “Bates Motel.”

CBS released a statement, writing, “For nine years, we were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family…We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit.”  Co-star on “Touched By an Angel” Roma Downey also released a statement of her own, saying, “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…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.”

It’s a sad day today, but let us all honor Della’s memory by continuing compassion and inspiration on her behalf.  We will miss you, Della.

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