by Kevin Walsh

I had made my way to Jamaica from Flushing in abominable 28-degree weather (at least there were no snowmen) and about a half hour before packing it in for the day and training it home, I was crossing Hillside Avenue and spotted this handsome blond brick building at #150-20. I figured it to be a former church building, perhaps a rectory. I was sort of correct. The words “Venture House” appeared above he door. I looked it up.

According to its website, Venture House is

a not-for-profit community based mental health agency, helping adults who are living with mental illness to achieve recovery through improved access to employment, education, recreation, affordable housing, meaningful relationships, and community engagement in an environment of mutual acceptance and empowerment.

A worthy endeavor, but what was the building’s original purpose? A quick look into the Municipal Archives held the answer.

It was just one of many buildings in the Walter B. Cooke funeral home franchise. I love funeral homes. Greater Astoria Historical Society, my partner organization, for many years occupied the 4th floor of the Thomas Quinn Funeral Home on Broadway, LIC and now and then, I’d just check out the big rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors where wakes were held. Most of us will be the guest of honor at one of these gorgeous edifices someday, but won’t be alive to enjoy it.

I used to have such fancy ideas. Some of our board at GAHS were musically inclined, such as DeeAnne Gorman, who sings the Great American Songbook. My thought was to open up the 4th floor once a month and bring in jazz, string quartets, singers and call it Upstairs At The Quinn. Since the building closed at 8 PM, though, that didn’t offer a lot of time and the idea never got to the planning stage.

The grand dreams of yesteryear. Who was Walter B. Cooke? The Indispensable Walter Grutchfield has the answer.

“Walter B. Cooke, owner and operator of one of the largest undertaking companies in New York City and a graduate of the Renouard School of Embalming, started his career working for National Casket Company. In 1916, he opened his own business at 4-6 Fordham Road in The Bronx. Within one year, he was so successful that he incorporated and opened businesses at West 190th Street and Willis Avenue in The Bronx as well as 10th Avenue in New York City and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. He owned and operated his own livery using a fleet of Rolls Royces. ‘A funeral should never cost more than a family could afford’ was the motto that Walter B. Cooke adopted and a philosophy that has continued for more than 90 years. A visionary, Walter B. Cooke continued to open funeral homes in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and White Plains. Walter B. Cooke sold his business privately in the early fifties, and it was again sold to Kinney National in 1965. In 1971, Walter B. Cooke Funeral Home joined the Dignity Memorial (R) network, North America’s premier provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services.”

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



George Bruce panos February 11, 2022 - 8:39 am

Kevin did u grow up on 78st.

chris February 11, 2022 - 1:02 pm

A lot of funeral homes are now actually part of huge chains that retain the
name of the original owners to make people think that they are still the
same people that did such a wonderful job laying out Grandpa. when the
opposite is true.Its all about appearances.

redstaterefugee February 12, 2022 - 11:00 am

Kevin: Since you like jazz, here’s a link that will help you audio stream jazz 24/7, without commercial interruption:
No editorial comments, no ads, just a wide variety of what has become an underappreciated art form. enjoy.

Mags204 February 13, 2022 - 9:38 am

Neat. 4-6 Fordham Road is just out of frame in this post from January

Gary Fonville March 3, 2022 - 10:02 am

Hey Chris. You’re absolutely correct. Dignity is is a huge concern. I researched where their facilities are located. They’re all over the country, including their ownership of the Cotton Funeral Home in my hometown of New Bern, NC.


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