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Local

A sidewalk star for Kathryn Hays

Princeton native, longtime ‘As the World Turns’ actress, to be honored Wednesday

Longtime soap opera actress, Kathryn Hays, poses for a photo inside her home in Princeton. In April, Hays moved back to Princeton, the place where she was born. She will receive the second star on Princeton's Walk of Fame in a ceremony on Sept. 4.
Longtime soap opera actress, Kathryn Hays, poses for a photo inside her home in Princeton. In April, Hays moved back to Princeton, the place where she was born. She will receive the second star on Princeton's Walk of Fame in a ceremony on Sept. 4.

PRINCETON — Princeton’s Walk of Fame outside the Apollo Theater is getting its second sidewalk star.

And the honor goes to longtime soap opera actress, Kathryn Hays, who was born in Princeton in 1933.

From 1972 to 2010, she played Kim Hughes on the CBS daytime soap opera, “As the World Turns.”

“Star Trek” fans will also remember when she played Gem on the episode “The Empath.” Her character was a mute alien who could heal wounds of the injured through her touch. Hays’ compelling performance earned her an Emmy nomination.

Hays, now 86, has moved back to Princeton from Connecticut. She settled into town this past April to be closer to family. While she is still getting reacquainted with the area, she said she was “pleasantly surprised” to see how much it had developed since the last time she had been back.

She was especially impressed with all the downtown shops and restaurants.

“I can’t get over how many restaurants there are. I have yet to have a bad meal,” she said.

She attended Festival 56’s production of “Little Women” last month and said she was blown away with the performance.

“I was dumbfounded at how fascinating it was. They were all so professional and great,” she said.

Hays said Princeton has been nothing but welcoming to her.

“It’s like someone left the door open and said, ‘Come on in,’” she said.

“Princeton has turned into a place that has it all. It’s a wonderful place to call home.”

Hays is especially touched with the honor of having a star on the Walk of Fame.

“They’re very kind to include me. I’m very touched by this,” she said.

Her star will be placed next to Richard Widmark’s. Hays said she remembers crossing paths with Widmark at one point in Hollywood.

“I remember him because I told him I was from Princeton, Illinois,” she said.

A dedication ceremony to honor Hays and her career will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 4 p.m. outside the Apollo Theater. Hays will be in attendance with her family and close friends.

Hays will also ride in the Homestead Festival parade next Saturday. Fun fact, the parade’s grand marshal, Ted Johnson, is a cousin of Hays.

The festival’s theme, “Journey Home,” fits perfectly with Hays’ story of returning back to the place she has always considered home.

Hays’ father was a farmer

According to a BCR story from 2008, Hays’ father farmed land in Princeton. His family was actually part of the Hampshire Colony that settled the area. Hays’ mother was a bookkeeper at Citizens First National Bank.

Her parents divorced. When Hays was 5 years old, her mother remarried and they moved to Joliet.

That’s where Hays discovered her love for acting. In high school, she became a teacher’s student assistant at a local children’s theater. Later, she attended a summer arts program at Northwestern University and was offered a full scholarship at a junior college.

Hays left college early when she landed a gig as a fashion model and worked on live TV commercials for WGN in Chicago in the 1950s.

Her big break came in 1962, after moving to New York, when she was cast as the lead in an episode of the popular police drama, “The Naked City.”

Hays studied with famed theater director and acting coach, Wynn Handman, who coached big names such as Michael Douglas, Denzel Washington, Mira Sorvino and James Caan.

Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, Hays appeared on numerous TV shows, including “Route 66,” “Dr. Kildare,” “Bonanza,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “The High Chaparral.”

In 1966, Hays married one of Hollywood’s most endearing actors, Glenn Ford. They divorced three years later.

Hays has played guest roles on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law & Order,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.” and “Branded.” Hays also guest-starred with Clint Walker in the 1971 TV film, “Yuma.”

Hays is also respected for her work on stage. She appeared on Broadway several times.

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