Walter B. Cooke

back  Walter B. Cooke, Inc., 51 East Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, New York, 2014   next

This sign has been painted over. Little can be read. The name Walter B. Cooke, however, is bleeding through the overpainting. Walter B. Cooke was a renowned funeral home in New York City from its founding in 1916 and continues even today (March 2015) as a corporate name.

As explained at, "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."

Walter Bernard Cooke (1890-1972) was born 15 January 1890 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and died, age 82, 24 March 1972 in Palm Beach, Florida.

This ad from 1921 located the business at 6 West Fordham Road. These were the original Cooke funeral parlors, established in 1916.

Ten years later, in 1926, the New York telephone directory showed Cooke with three branch locations, one in Manhattan at 593 10th Ave., and two in the Bronx, at 293 Willis Ave. and 2304 Grand Ave. That same years plans were filed for a new funeral home at 1 West 190th Street on the northwest corner of Jerome Ave. As noted in the New York Times, 27 July 1926, p. 34, this was "One Hundred and Ninetieth Street, northwest corner of Jerome Avenue, two-story brick funeral chapel, 65 by 90 feet. Walter B. Cooke, owner; Paul C. Hunter, architect. Cost, $40,000." 1 West 190th St. was listed as the main office of Walter B. Cooke, Inc. from 1928 to 1937. This ad from 1932 shows Cooke's locations in the Bronx, Manhattan and two branches in Brooklyn.

In 1938 Cooke's main office moved to Manhattan at 117 West 72nd St. Both this and the funeral home at 1 W. 190th St. were Cooke funeral parlors through 1979.

This ad from 1947 listed locations in every borough of the city, plus one in White Plains, Westchester County. And funerals could still be had at the 1921 price, $150!

A photo dated 1941 by Percy Loomis Sperr available on the New York Public Library's Digital Collections shows the Walter B. Cooke location at 347 Willis Ave., on the corner of 142nd St., the Bronx.

A modest obituary of Cooke appeared in the New York Times, 26 March 1972, p. 63, reading, "Walter B. Cooke, the undertaker, died Friday at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. Mr. Cooke began in 1915 with the funeral home at 6 West Fordham Road, the Bronx. He built his concern here into one of the largest organizations of its kind. When he retired in 1945, there were 13 branches, 2 flower shops, 2 coffin factories and more than 100 vehicles in his main garage. His widow, Ann, survives." The same issue of the Times had a death notice reading, "Cooke Walter B. Age 82, on March 24, 1972, at his residence in Palm Beach,. Fla. Survived by his living wife Anne (nee Crimmins). Reposing Walter B. Cooke Funeral Home, 1 W. 190 St., Bronx, New York. A mass of Resurrection will be offered St. Patrick Church, State Road, Bedford, New York, Wednesday, 12 noon. Entombment Ferncliff. Visiting hours Tuesday 8 A.M. to 10 P.M."

Copyright © 2015 Walter Grutchfield