FROM WAR VET TO INDUSTRY VET

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Optician Egon Kot reminisces about his first occupation, which is seven decades strong.

Not many can say they’ve witnessed an industry change over 70 years. But 93-year-old Egon Kot, a practicing optician in Clifton, NJ, has seen it all.

Born in Kassel, Germany, Kot immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1936 at the age of 12, settling in Paterson, NJ, where his father worked as a baker. Through his network of friends, he heard that opticianry was a good occupation, which he pursued right before serving as a corporal in the U.S. Army during World War II.

“It seemed like a good thing to do and I can’t complain-it [opticianry]has been good to me,” Kot said from his office at Kot Opticans and Hearing Aid Center, a practice he owns with his son Jeffrey, an audiologist.

After returning from service, Kot went to work at M.H. Harris Opticians in New York City for several years, before transferring to its Newark, NJ, office and then working with an ophthalmologist in Passaic, NJ. Kot is also a licensed audiologist, and his current practice has been in two different Clifton locations for about 25 years.

“It’s very commercial now,” Kot commented about the optical industry. “Today there are ‘highway’ operations and you can get glasses anywhere. Very often, glasses [purchased online]are poor quality and they don’t fit properly, so they go to their local optician to have them fixed-and expect it free of charge!”

Kot stocks both sunwear and ophthalmics for adults and children from such brands as Liberty Sport, Ray-Ban and Flexon, and he is a big fan of Varilux as well as BluTech lenses.

Kot, a grandfather of three and great-grandfather of seven, said he believes that iPads, computers and other devices are very harmful, especially for children’s eyesight. “They emit a dangerous blue light and by their early 30s, kids will have signs of cataracts and macular degeneration,” he said.

After the death of his wife, Shirley, five years ago, Kot sold his home in Pompton Plains, NJ, where he and his wife raised two children (son Jeffrey and daughter Ellen). He now resides in Clifton near his practice, where he works six half-days a week. And while he used to do most lab work himself, Kot said he now relies on two labs to do most of the work for him-unless a patient needs something very fast.

“I enjoy getting up every day and still meeting people,” he said. “What else would I do? Stare out the window all day?”

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