Della Reese (July 6, 1931 – November 19, 2017) had a 60 year odd career as singer, actress, TV host and Minister of Religion. These talents combined in her most most lasting work, as Angel-in-Chief Tess in the series Touched by an Angel.
In the first episode of Touched by an Angel that I saw, the lovely angel Monica (Roma Downey) was talking to a troubled woman out the front of her house at night. The woman’s sadly neglected child was inside playing with matches (we knew it but the mother didn’t and somehow the angel didn’t either). When a handsome empathetic looking young man in a white suit (John Dye) came through the gate and walked into the house, Monica said “Oh no” and looked really worried. I wondered why. (Why is she not happy to see this well-dressed handsome empathetic looking young man? I wondered). But I soon found out. He was Andrew, none other than The Angel of Death. As all of you who have watched TBaA know, Andrew’s appearance doesn’t necessarily herald a death, it just means that there could be a death. Which allows room for suspense. And he’s very nice really, he has a quizzical expression and the white suit is a better look than a black hooded cloak and scythe. As you aficionados also know, Monica does a good line in shining all orange when she tells someone that she is an angel, at which point she always offers hope and says, “God loves you”. I wish I could type in an Irish accent. Tess is the earthy senior angel who calls Monica “angel-child”, wears star and moon earrings and launches into song whenever she can. The three angels get about the United States, always in a sort of temp position in an ‘assignment’ which is unclear to them at first, ready to do good. Each episode is different and somehow almost all stay just this side of mawkishness, often being quite sad. The occasional attempts to add an additional angel have failed. We only need Monica, Tess and Andrew. But we no longer have Tess.