Kathryn Hays, one of the most beloved and longest-running stars of the soap opera As the World Turns, passed away on March 25, 2022, at the age of 87. Her death was confirmed by her daughter Sherri Mancusi, who did not reveal the cause of death. Hays, who played the role of Kim Sullivan Hughes on the CBS show for nearly four decades, was also known for her appearance on the original Star Trek series as Gem, a mute alien with healing powers.
A Versatile and Talented Actress
Hays was born as Kay Piper in Princeton, Illinois, on July 26, 1934. She grew up in Joliet and took classes at Northwestern University. She worked as a model before changing her name to Kathryn Hays and pursuing an acting career in 1962. She made her Broadway debut in Ladybug, Ladybug and later appeared in other shows such as The Irregular Verb to Love and Hot September. She also starred in several films, such as Ride Beyond Vengeance and Counterpoint.
Hays made numerous appearances on episodic TV shows, such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Road West. She also had a memorable role in the third season of Star Trek, in the episode “The Empath”, where she portrayed Gem, a woman who could heal others by taking their pain. She later said of the role, “It was a wonderful experience. I loved working with Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. They were very generous and supportive.”
A Soap Opera Icon
Hays’ most famous and enduring role was that of Kim Sullivan Hughes on As the World Turns, which she joined in 1972 and stayed until the show’s final episode in 2010. Kim was a pivotal heroine on the show, who went through many trials and tribulations, such as losing her husband, being kidnapped, surviving cancer, and raising her adopted son. Hays won the hearts of millions of fans with her portrayal of Kim, who was compassionate, loyal, strong, and graceful. She also shared a remarkable chemistry with her on-screen husband, Don Hastings, who played Dr. Bob Hughes. The couple was one of the longest-running and most stable pairs in soap opera history.
Hays was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1975 and 1976 for her role as Kim. She also received a Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Actress in a Mature Role in 1986. She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2004. She was prominently featured in the 50th anniversary episode of As the World Turns in 2006, and also appeared in the show’s finale in 2010.
A Loving Mother and Grandmother
Hays was married three times in her life. Her first husband was salesman Sidney Steinberg, with whom she had a daughter, Sherri, in 1957. Her second husband was actor Glenn Ford, whom she married in 1966 and divorced in 1969. Her third husband was Wolfgang Lieschke, who worked in the advertising industry. They married in 1984 and divorced in 1986.
Hays was a devoted mother and grandmother, who enjoyed spending time with her family. She also loved music, church, and dogs. She created beauty wherever she went, according to her family, who described her as “an actor’s actor, who always knew her lines and hit her marks.” She was also “a consummate artist, who was never happier than when involved in the creative process, whether it was rehearsal, learning lines, cooking for friends, decorating a house, or creating a garden. Especially gardens.”
Hays’ funeral arrangements are private. She is survived by her daughter, Sherri, her son-in-law, John, and her grandchildren, Kathryn and John.
A Legacy of Inspiration and Joy
Kathryn Hays was a legend of the soap opera genre, who touched the lives of millions of viewers with her captivating and heartfelt performance as Kim Hughes. She was also a versatile and talented actress, who excelled in various mediums and genres. She was a loving and generous person, who brought joy and beauty to everyone around her. She will be dearly missed by her family, friends, colleagues, and fans. She will always be remembered as a shining star in the world of entertainment.