Funeral services were pending Monday for actress Della Reese, who was best known for her work on the series “Touched by an Angel” but who was also an ordained minister who founded an Inglewood church.

Reese died at her home Sunday night at age 86, according to a statement released by her “Touched by an Angel” co-star, Roma Downey.

“She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer,” Downey said. “Through her life and work she touched an 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.”

CBS, which aired “Touched by an Angel” from 1994-2003, also released a statement, hailing Reese as someone who “delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess” on the show.

“We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

Reese also made television history when she became the first black woman to host her own talk show, with 1969’s “Della.”

Born in Michigan, Reese built a career as a singer and actress appearing on variety shows in the 1950s. She went on to appear on shows including “Sanford and Son,” “Picket Fences,” “Crazy Like a Fox,” “Charlie & Co.” and “It Takes Two.”

While continuing her entertainment career, she founded the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church, known as the UP Church. On the church’s website, she said the institution “started in my living room as a small group of eight Christians seeking to gain more divine knowledge of how to bring about change in their lives.”

“At UP Church, we do not attempt to teach you what to think, but rather how to think on a higher level,” she wrote. “And that level of thinking will immune you from the doubt and fear that causes us not to see the best in ourselves and others; immune you from magnifying our mistakes; immune you from procrastination; and immune you from failure.”

–City News Service

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