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Stories and songs from World War II will be celebrated in Tarpon Springs

A young woman with red hair and an older man with newsboy cap on sit with coffee mugs in their hands.
Kathy Kaefer
Kathy Kaefer and her friend, Joe Columbo

Kathy Kaefer is singing across the country in a cabaret act. “Kiss Me Once: Stories from the Homefront with Kathy Kaefer” comes to the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

Kathy Kaefer, who makes her home in New York, brings her show, “Kiss Me Once: Stories from the Homefront with Kathy Kaefer,” to the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center for a 5 p.m. performance on Saturday.

Kaefer created the show after talking to her grandmothers about their experiences during the Second World War. She said she had to “drag the stories out” of her grandmother, Arlene Kaefer. But her grandmother Teresa Geare was willing to speak about what she went through.

In a blurry black and white photo and man and woman stand together, his arm around her.
Courtesy of Kathy Kaefer
Lester and Arlene Kaefer, Kathy Kaefer's grandparents

"I very quickly realized that I had pretty much the whole show right there with my grandmothers and that, instead of them coming up with a song that triggered a memory for them, they would be telling me the stories, and I would think, ‘Oh, this song would be perfect for that,’” she said.

Both Teresa and Arlene were at home while their husbands, Paul and Lester, were away at war. Kathy’s grandfather Paul Geare served in the U.S. Navy, her grandfather Lester Kaefer was in the U.S. Army, serving as a tank instructor.

A man in uniform and a woman in a wedding gown smile from inside a car.
Courtesy of Kathy Kaefer
Kathy Kaefer's grandparents, Paul and Teresa Geare

Kaefer said she’s been naturally drawn to talking to people of a certain age, and made friends with others who’d lived through World War II, like Joe Columbo, whom she met at a coffee shop in New York’s West Village. He had served in the U.S. Army, in the Pacific War.

"My husband used to tease me because I, if we were sitting in a laundromat or a bus stop or anywhere and there was someone of a certain age, like, he's like, 'Just go ahead, you know you're going to start talking to them, what are you waiting for?'" she said.

After she befriended Joe, Kathy said they’d get together every weekend for coffee or to listen to his records.

Kaefer had formal training as an actor, but grew up in Huntington Beach, California singing as her dad played the guitar.

And storytelling comes naturally to her. Plus, she’s a huge fan of “StoryCorps."

“I just, in an alternate universe, I would have loved to just completely devote myself to that organization, the idea of sitting around getting to like, help nurture these conversations, or sort of help people figure out what questions they want to ask to unlock these stories with, with people that they love,” she said.

She said stories make her feel less alone.

When she first created this program, she hadn’t met the Einhorns.

A smiling man in a U.S. Army uniform and a woman in a white blouse smile for the camera
Courtesy of Kathy Kaefer
Marvin and Annie Einhorn

“Right before my daughter was born, about 10 years ago, I spent a couple years with them, Annie and Marvin Einhorn whose whole relationship was born during the war, and they told me so many incredible stories,” she said.

Kathy got permission from the Einhorns’ children to include their stories in the show after they’d passed away.

After 70 years of marriage, Annie died in 2013, and Marvin about a year later.

"And Marvin was an actor all of his life until his 80s, he was still auditioning for things and Annie was involved in the off-Broadway theater in New York. So, they both thought their parents would love to be talked about in a show," she said.

A young man in a U.S. Army uniform holds an acoustic guitar.
Courtesy of Kathy Kaefer
Joe Columbo in his U.S. Army uniform

Kaefer said the good thing about cabaret is that it's like the opposite of wanting to be a gymnast.

“Even at 52, I'm still a spring chicken in that world, and I took time off for the 10 years that I raised my daughter and then when my husband passed and like just, I've really just gotten very much back into my music recently and that created some anxiety,” she said.

But she came to realize that her lived experience just “deepened everything.”

And she said Marilyn Maye is 96 and just sold out a performance at Carnegie Hall. So, she hopes to be like her.

This performance in Tarpon Springs is the only one Kathy Kaefer is doing in Florida anytime soon.

She’ll be sharing stories and singing songs like, “The White Cliffs of Dover,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

You can get information on tickets here.

I love telling stories about my home state. And I hope they will help you in some way and maybe even lift your spirits.