Multi-faceted husky voiced American jazz singer, actress, talk show host, ordained minister Delloreese Patricia Early, professionally known as Della Reese delighted her audience for seven whole decades.
The beloved screen star began her journey to the spotlight at age 13, after being spotted by famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, she then joined her gospel-choir tour, thus Reese kicked off her career as a singer.
However while studying at Wayne State University a young Della had plans of becoming a psychiatrist, but it all changed after the death of her mum, her dad’s failing health and subsequent disagreements which didn’t help matters either. She moved out, taking on odd jobs such as truck driving to survive while continuing her singing career.
Her big break came after landing a one-week engagement at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit upon winning a contest and being spotted by a manager.
She soon moved to New York, where she became a vocalist with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra then later moved Jubilee Records for three years where in 1957, she had her first big hit record, the romantic ballad “And That Reminds Me.”
Amongst Reese’s well known hits are: “My Soul Feels Better Right Now” and “Don’t You Know?”
As an actress, she made her television acting debut in the police series “The Mod Squad” in 1968, going on to appear in scores of television movies and series, including the 1970s sitcom “Chico and the Man,” The Royal Family,”
A trailblazer, she became the first black woman to host her own talk show when Della premiered in 1969.
Della Reese’s most notable acting role was Tess, an heavenly messenger on the hit CBS series “Touched by an Angel” which premiered in 1994, her brilliant interpretation instantly warmed hearts. It went on to become one of prime time’s top-rated shows.
As a minister, in the 1980s, Ms. Reese was ordained by the Universal Foundation for Better Living and founded the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church.
Amazingly she became close friends with Roma Downey, her costar on the CBS drama series Touched By An Angel, and even officiated at Downey’s 2007 wedding ceremony to TV reality producer Mark Burnett.
Over the course of her career, the screen star garnered multiple Grammy nods as well as an Emmy nod to name but a few. She was a recipient of 1994: Hollywood Walk of Fame, Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series among others.
Ms. Reese was married thrice: Franklin Lett (M. 1983–2017), Leroy Gray (M. 1959–1961), Vermont Taliaferro (M. 1951–1958).
Delloreese Patricia Early died on November 19, 2017 at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 86.
Gone but not forgotten, her legacy lives on.