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Businesswoman Karen de Montbrun dies at 63

After battling Lou Gehrig’s disease...

By Carla Bridglal

 Businesswoman Karen de Montbrun died yesterday morning after a two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was 63 years old.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death, according to the Washington, DC-based ALS Association’s website, alsa.org.

De Montbrun was a prominent member of the local business community, most notably as the first—and, so far, only—woman president of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association, a position she held for two terms in 2007 and 2008. 

She was also regional logistics manager at biscuit company Bermudez until her retirement. Prior to that, she worked at the Canadian High Commission, and as a teacher at her alma mater—St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain. She also served as a member of the Business Development Company (now ExporTT).

De Montbrun’s death left a significant void at the TTMA, and she will be deeply missed as someone not easily replaced, TTMA chief executive officer Ramesh Ramdeen said yesterday. “She was very lovable, caring, compassionate, appreciative and understanding. She has given tremendous service, not only to manufacturing and business, but also to the country. She was all about the development of human capa­city of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. She was a mother to us all; she was integral to promoting staff training, and even when she left the presidency she was always willing to help the organisation in any way.

“She gave a voice to the TTMA as a representative of its members for a number of national concerns, like procurement and trade facilitation. She was all about trade promotion—an ‘integrationalist’. She advocated links and the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), free trade and a framework for trade,” Ramdeen told the Express in a phone interview.

“It’s a great loss. I have worked with her as part of the group for many years and she will be missed,” added Paul Quesnel, who was president of the TTMA immediately before de Montbrun. 

Chief executive officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce Catherine Kumar said de Montbrun was a “champion for manu­facturers”.

“She was a woman of fire and determination to succeed in all that she did,” Kumar said.

She said she had worked with de Montbrun as a member of the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation. 

“What impressed me is she would always give her opinion in a manner that would open up the matter for discussion and critical thinking from members. She will definitely be missed as someone in the business community and to me personally, and I send my condolences to her family, who must be grieving at this time,” Kumar said.

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