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Custom Prosthetics restores faces, limbs

Laura Layden

Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA

Raymond Peters loved art.

His paintings of nature and wildlife, from tropical birds and polar bears to ships and seascapes, still decorate the walls at The Center for Custom Prosthetics in North Naples. His presence is still felt there in many ways, although he’s been gone for more than eight months.

The master eye maker died April 25, 2017, at 87, after a more than threeyear battle with leukemia.

His wife, Susan Peters, still manages the business, which continues to build on Raymond Peters’ legacy as a leader in the field of ocular prosthetics.

Peters worked at his rare craft until three weeks before he died, when he became too ill to make it into the office.

“This was his love,” Susan Peters recalls. “This was his everything.”

He treated thousands of patients over more than 45 years, those who were born without eyes or lost their eyes to trauma or disease, from dog bites to cancer. His clients included many veterans and even famed entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.

“He said the eyes were the window to your soul,” Susan Peters said. “He would not only help patients physically but psychologically. He would tell them jokes.”

To help fill the big void Peters left behind, after a months-long search the business hired an eye specialist, Tim Brakefield, from Wisconsin, who has been in the field f or about 20 years.

Brakefield is lightening the load for David Trainer, the only other prosthetist at The Center for Custom Prosthetics. Trainer specializes in noses and ears but also can do eyes and other custom body parts, from fingers and hands to t oes and f eet. He has even done entire faces.

One of Brakefield’s first patients in Naples, a young man from Orlando needed another artificial eye after losing the first one.

“Just like anything, they’re not made to last forever,” Brakefield said.

One of the first steps is to measure and make an impression of the eye socket to create a custom-fit acrylic prosthetic. Eyes are hand-painted to create a realistic and natural look, down to the intricate web of red veins and the pigment of the iris.

Over the years Brakefield has seen patients who have lost their eyes to such diseases as glaucoma and retinoblastoma and to such dangers as BB guns and fireworks. About 10,000 people lose an eye each year, he said.

“There’s not a lot of us ocularists out there,” Brakefield said.

Raymond Peters was drawn to the profession by his first love — art.

He began his career in the 1950s with the U.S. Navy Dental Department in Bethesda, Maryland, researching new methods of incorporating pigments into artificial eyes and other

See PROSTHETICS, Page 3B

Ocularist Tim Brakefield, right, fits patient Hoang Asam of Orlando for a prosthetic eye at The Center for Custom Prosthetics in North Naples on Dec. 5. DOROTHY EDWARDS/NAPLES DAILY NEWS

Raymond E. Peters, who died last y ear. THE CENTER FOR CUSTOM PROSTHETICS

Brakefield hand-paints a prosthetic eye to create a realistic and natural look, down to the intricate web of red veins and the pigment of the iris.

DOROTHY EDWARDS/NAPLES DAILY NEWS

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