By Ed Wendell
Many years ago, if you were looking through the pages of this paper you would see numerous ads for funeral homes in Woodhaven.
There was Brome Funeral Home (later Kaiser & Koos) on Woodhaven Boulevard; J.P. Eldridge on 78th Street; Kennedy Funeral Home on 86th Road; C.H. Thompson (later Walsh & LaBella) on 87th Street; Shalins Funeral Home on Jamaica Avenue near Forest Parkway; and N.F. Walker on Jamaica Avenue.
Today, Walker stands alone as the only remaining funeral home in Woodhaven. One by one, all of the rest of the funeral homes went out of business and shut their doors.
In recognition for their longevity, Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. recently notified Walker Funeral Home that they have been added to the New York State Historic Business Preservation Registry. He presented Funeral Directors Paul and Annmarie Rudolph with this award at a recent WRBA meeting.
Walker Funeral Home’s story begins in Brooklyn in 1898 when Nathaniel Francis Walker opened on De Kalb Avenue. His business was so successful that he opened up a second location on Jamaica Avenue with his son N. F. Walker, Jr.
In Walker’s early days in Woodhaven it also doubled as an Auto Service where you could hire cars by the day from their garage near Forest Parkway. This was pretty common for funeral homes in those days as they would rent their vehicles out when not being used for funeral processions.
Walker was located at a location that all of you will recognize. With its distinctive marble front, the Law Office of James Rooney at 86-07 Jamaica Avenue stands out from every business around them and was Walker’s home in Woodhaven starting in 1912.
In the window of Rooney’s Law Office is probably one of the most well-known clocks in Woodhaven, one that hundreds of people pass by and glance at every morning on their way to work.
Walker Funeral Home was successful from the start and the director, N.F. Walker Jr., became a very active and beloved figure in Woodhaven for over half a century. For example, he was a founding member of the Woodhaven Patriotic League during World War 2.
He managed a Rest Center for the American Red Cross during WW2, a place where people could go in the event they were bombed out of their homes. Accommodations for over 150 people were set up under Walker’s direction at the Forest Park Reformed Church 86th Street and 86th Avenue.
N.F. Walker Jr. served on the Board of Directors of Columbia Savings Bank in Woodhaven and his face was featured in the pages on the Leader-Observer many times over the years.
Eventually, they needed larger quarters and in 1942, N.F. Walker Jr. built a brand new modern facility at 87-34 80th Street where they are still in business today – the last funeral home standing in Woodhaven.
If you’ve been doing the math, it means that Walker’s (which opened in 1898) will celebrate its 125th year in 2023. It has been doing business in Woodhaven for 110 years. And it has been doing business at its new location on 80th Street for 80 years. And the Rudolph Family took over the funeral home nearly 40 years ago, in 1983.
That’s quite a history and well deserving of the recognition bestowed upon it by Sen. Addabbo and New York State. Congratulations to the Rudolph family, Paul Sr. and Jessie, Paul Jr. and Annmarie.
NF Walker Funeral Home’s services are affordable and you can also arrange direct cremations. They are also adept at handling funeral services from many different cultures and religions – Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. You can call Walker Funeral Home at (718) 296-4343 or email them with questions at [email protected].
On a final note, on Friday, December 16th, the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society is sponsoring “A Woodhaven Christmas Carol,” an evening candlelight walking tour of Old Woodhaven Village complete with Christmas Caroling at specially selected spots.
We start gathering at Neir’s Tavern (87-48 78th Street) between 5 and 6 p.m. with a departure scheduled for 6:30. We will make our way to Pop’s Cocina at 86th Street and Jamaica Avenue and end up at Geordie’s Joint at 80th Street and Jamaica.
But along the way we will be stopping at Walker’s Funeral Home for a moment of silence dedicated to all of the thousands of residents of Woodhaven whose families have bid farewell to them there. They are the true Ghosts of Woodhaven’s Christmas Past.