The Leo F. Kearns funeral parlors have overseen the last voyage on Earth for many Queens residents over the years. And they’ve done it from buildings of architectural significance.
Leo F. and Thomas Kearns originally started their funeral home business early in the 20th century at 115-10 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park. But it was Thomas Kearns Jr. who revolutionized how funeral parlors looked in Queens.
In 1950 one of their branches was situated on Woodhaven Boulevard at the corner of 60th Avenue. It was announced that this was going to be the location for the Woodhaven Boulevard exit ramp of the new Long Island Expressway. In 1954 the property was officially condemned by the city.
The younger Kearns bought an obscure, irregular lot next to Resurrection Ascension Church off Dry Harbor Road and Woodhaven Boulevard. He hired Roman Catholic Church architect A.F. Meissner to construct a very pleasant building, considered a complete departure from the commonplace funeral parlor look, without eliminating any of the efficiency.
Briar Hill sandstone, Roman brick, limestone trim and extensive landscaping created a soothing beauty that won first prize and a bronze plaque from the Queens Chamber of Commerce for Best Commercial Structure of 1955.
Prior to this great achievement, Mr. Meissner had won first prize three years earlier for the beautiful ranch-style funeral parlor he built for Kearns at 103-33 Lefferts Blvd. in South Ozone Park.
That kind of outstanding architecture has not been seen before or since among funeral homes in Queens.