Summersby was born Kathleen Helen MacCarthy-Morrogh in Ballydehob, County Cork, Ireland. She was the daughter of Andrew F. and Vera MacCarthy-Morrogh; her father was originally from County Kerry, and her mother was born in Wales. She described her father, a retired Lt. Colonel of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, as black Irish and her mother as English. As a young woman, she moved to London where she worked as a film studio extra, dabbled in photography, and eventually became a fashion model. She was married and divorced, retaining the name of her ex-husband.
When Britain entered the Second World War in 1939, Summersby joined the British Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC). She drove an ambulance throughout the London Blitz in 1940 and 1941, and was reportedly excellent at navigating London streets during blackouts and fog. When the United States joined the Allies after the German declaration of war in December 1941, Summersby was one of many MTC drivers assigned as chauffeurs to high ranking American military officers. She was assigned to drive Major General Dwight Eisenhower when he arrived in London in May, 1942. Though there was a brief interruption of several weeks due to Eisenhower's short return to the US, Summersby chauffeured Eisenhower and later became his secretary until November, 1945. During this time Eisenhower rose in rank to a five-star General of the Army and Commander of the European Theatre, and Kay, with his help, became a US citizen and a commissioned officer in the US Women's Army Corps (WACs), ultimately leaving the service as a captain in 1947. Captain Summersby's military awards included the Legion of Merit, Women's Army Corps Service Medal, European Campaign Medal, World War Two Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp.
After a broken engagement with a California man Summersby married the Wall Street stockbroker Reginald H. Morgan in 1952, but was divorced again. She died at her home in Southampton, Long Island, of cancer, on 20 January 1975.
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