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Lake H. Kearney, pioneering sergeant in Erie County Sheriff’s Office

Dec. 18, 1928 – July 4, 2015

Lake Hurges Kearney, one of first African-American sergeants in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, died Saturday. He was 86.

Mr. Kearney was born in North Carolina and was one of 13 children. He left the state as a teenager and found work as a mason in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he also met and married the former Patricia Ann Evans.

In 1951, he and his family moved to Buffalo, where he worked at Bethlehem Steel and General Mills. In his spare time, he partnered with his brother-in-law painting, wallpapering and remodeling houses. They then opened Allen’s Friendly Service, a Mobil gas station, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Riley Street.

He was named a deputy in the Sheriff’s Office in 1957, where he worked in the jail division.

He later opened up another gas station, Kearney’s Friendly Service, at Sycamore and Ash streets. He closed the station down in the late 1960s, when he and his wife divorced.

He continued his work as a deputy during the day and picked up second-shift duties at Maier Shcule GMC as a diesel mechanic, where he developed an eye for trucking. He eventually bought his first tractor-trailer in 1969 and began leasing it to haul steel around the East Coast.

In 1970, Mr. Kearney married the former Josephine Hawkins.

He became a road patrol deputy with the Sheriff’s Office. He continued to run his trucking company and found time to moonlight as a deputy U.S. Marshal.

In the 1980s, Mr. Kearney was one of the first black men promoted to sergeant in the sheriff’s office, and was put in charge of the transportation department. He eventually retired from the sheriff’s office in 1984 to devote his full attention to his trucking business.

After his wife’s illness and death in 1993, Mr. Kearney temporarily retired to North Carolina.

At the suggestion of one of his daughters, he returned to the Buffalo area in 1995 to drive a shuttle bus at Canisius College.

He retired for good in 2009.

Survivors include a sister, Juanita Allen; a brother, Robert; two daughters, Marsha Stokes and Lynell Reed; a son, Martin; five grandchildren; six great-grandchildren and his companion, Dolores Williams.

Services will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Thomas T. Edwards Funeral Home, Inc., 995 Genessee St.