By Ashten Wilson
Born on July 26th, in 1933 as Kay Piper, the actor started out her childhood with her father who was a farmer and her mother who was a bookkeeper. Her parents divorced early in her childhood. Her mother remarried when Hays was five years old and they moved to Joliet, Illinois.
During her time in Joliet, Kathryn discovered her interest in acting and was given the opportunity to explore her interest by assisting her teacher at a local children’s theater. She attended a summer arts program at Northwestern University and also received a full-time scholarship offer at a junior college. At the age of 18, Hays left the college to work as a fashion model in Chicago. She appeared in TV commercials for the Chicago-based WGN-TV in the 1950’s.
Throughout the 60’s, Hays appeared in a string of television shows as a guest star including Dr. Kildare, Route 66, Bonanza, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The High Chaparral. Kathryn also appeared as Gem, a silent alien capable of absorbing the grief and injuries of others and being able to mend them, in the episode titled, ‘The Empath,’ in Star Trek: The Original Series in 1968. In 1966-67’, The star played Elizabeth Reynolds in the western television series The Road West as a regular in the series.
In 1962, Hays made a debut on television and appeared in one episode of Hawaiian Eye titled ‘Total Eclipse’ as Jean Morgan. During that same year, Kathryn appeared as a guest star on Surfside as Joy Allen and again in Naked City as Beth Rydecker, Hays also appeared on Guiding Light as Leslie Bauer.
Kathryn Hays has one daughter, Shari Hays Wells, from her first marriage. Hays married again on March 27th, 1966 to Hollywood actor Glenn Ford. The marriage was very short and the couple divorced on June 26th, 1969. On January 15th, 1984, Kathryn Hays’ married her third husband, Wolfgang G Lieschke. Shortly thereafter, their marriage was annulled in 1985.
In 1972, Kathryn landed a role for CBS’s soap opera as Kim Hughes in As the World Turns and Hays appeared in the series for almost four decades until it concluded on September 17th, 2010 when the last show aired. Hays was featured heavily on the show’s 50th anniversary episode, which aired April of 2006.
Hays also appeared in numerous other television series as well as comedies, and drama series, such as Circle of Fear, American Playhouse, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and One Life to Live. Hays also showcased her talents in television movies, such as This Savage Land (1969), Breadout (1970), and Yuma (1971), and Kathryn also has a handful of film credits like Ladybug Ladybug (1963), Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966), and Counterpoint (1967).
Before the pandemic in 2019, Kathryn Hays was given a memorable star in the pavement outside the Apollo Theater in Princeton, Illinois. To commemorate her work, she was placed into the city’s “Walk of Fame”. It was the second star to be put on display for all to see. In a recent article by Shaw local, Hays states “she was pleasantly surprised to see how much it (Princeton, IL) had developed since the last time she had been back”. Hays was also impressed with all the downtown shops and restaurants Princeton now has to offer.
In October of 2020, the As the World Turns cast, including Hays, reunited to support live theater amid the coronavirus pandemic. They worked with the professional, non-profit theater Katonah Classic Stage (KCS) to raise money for musicians and theater artists.
About the author: Ashten Wilson, a student at Princeton High School, is currently interning at the Bureau County Historical Society. She is exploring a career in history. In addition, she is the niece and granddaughter of two members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
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