The history of the W.Trester Institute for Ocular Prosthetics
Founded in 1923 by Willy Trester in Cologne
Willy Trester in military service, Willy Trester during the founding years, first company logo
Willy Trester was born in 1898 in Wiesbaden, the son of lithographer Albert Trester. He spent his childhood and youth in the place of his birth and absolved his apprenticeship as an eyemaker, or eye artist, at the Müller-Söhne institute for artificial eyes in Wiesbaden which he began in 1913. In 1917 he joined the military as a soldier and suffered multiple injuries, which would have consequences in later life.
After being discharged from the military and imprisonment in 1919, he took up his work as an eye maker and worked as an employee of Müller-Söhne in Wiesbaden until 1922. In 1923, he founded his own studio for artificial eyes in Cologne.
As one of the first “eye makers” he was initially active in the USA in 1923 with a group of colleagues. This group of German eyemakers, Max and Arno Köhler, Richard Danz, immigrants from Lauscha, and Willy Trester travelled together throughout the USA from 1923-1925. Willy Trester had to undergo a kidney operation in Philadelphia and travelled back to Germany, so the story goes, with an open wound. Today, the descendants, especially of the Danz family are the leading manufacturers of artificial eyes on the west coast of the US. From 1931, Willy Trester developed business relations with South America. He became the first eye manufacturer in Latin America. The journey by ship to South America took up to 3 weeks. Willy Trester worked exclusively in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, prior to returning to Germany. Despite his work overseas, the work continued in his studio in Cologne. The introduction of the first consultation hours in neighbouring cities such as Aachen or Krefeld took place during this period.
Working conditions in South America, travel by ship
In the 30s, the “Studio for Artificial Eyes” was located on the Karolinerring in Cologne. During these years, the first apprentices began coming to Willy Trester’s studio. Peter Keuthmann, the son of the landlord, Franz Keuthmann decided in favour of a well-founded and excellent apprenticeship as an eye artist with Willy Trester, and in later years became his confidante and assistant.
Towards the end of World War II, there was a strong increase in the number of eye injuries. Many soldiers had to be treated under the most difficult conditions. The Allies bombed Cologne nearly every day. Willy Trester was bombed out on two occasions. Finally, towards the end of the war he relocated his activities to Lauscha/Thuringia Forest, where German glass eye making originated in 1835, where many eyemakers lived. Towards the end of the war Willy Trester suffered from increasingly frequent severe diseases, which could hardly be treated due to the lack of medication. In 1945, he returned to Cologne to live in a house near Bergisch Gladbach, which he had bought prior to the war. From 1946, he began to reinitiate make-shift patient care with hydrogen gas, supplied by the Bayerwerk in Leverkusen. In that way, in the emergency years, he was able to help many injured soldiers who required ocular prosthetics. In the same year, his assistant, Peter Keuthmann, came back from war captivity to help his boss, who was becoming increasingly ill. Willy Trester passed away in 1947 due to the consequences of his illnesses and injuries he had suffered in World War I. He was only 49 years old.
As a medical orderly at the Breda military hospital (1940-1944), the studio in Sebastianstraße 7, Köln-Niehl (1950), the Institute in the Niehler Straße 380 from 1959, awarding the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on 4 November 1982
From 1948, Peter Keuthmann, who was now Willy Trester’s successor, moved to Köln-Niehl, where only minimal work was possible due to the lack of space. This emergency solution was only supposed to be a temporary situation, however continued until 1959. During this time, the consultation hours in Aachen and Solingen-Ohligs were reinitiated and from 1952 Heinz Heierhoff joined as an apprentice and was a loyal employee in the studio until 1965, when he began self-employment.
In 1959 Peter Keuthmann was finally able to move into his newly-built house in Köln-Niehl, where he opened the Institute in a space separate from his living area.
The house in Niehler St. 380
After absolving middle school, commercial college and military service with the German air force, Wolfgang Trester began his training as an ocularist in Peter Keuthmann’s - his stepfather’s - institute. In 1968, he opened up consultation days in Antwerp (Belgium) and according to tradition, regular consultation days in South Africa from 1971. Later, many other international locations were added: Norway, Greece, France and the Orient. Wolfgang Trester began training young people in the occupation. One of the first was Martin Strack, who advanced to become one of the Institute’s best and most popular employees. From 1976 Wolfgang Trester opened his own institute in the Domstrasse in Cologne and took over some of his stepfather’s managerial activities, who continued to care for older patients from the mid-90s in the new W.Trester Institute on Ebertplatz. Peter Keuthmann was a long-term chairman of the VDKI professional association and later honorary chairman of the association. In 1983 he was awarded the military cross. He passed away suddenly in 1991.
Today, the W. Trester Institute is run by his son, Marc Trester, as managing director and is led into the future in keeping with its long years of tradition.
Meeting Nelson Mandela