VISIONARY businessman Robert “Bobby” Montano who is credited with shaping the landscape of San Fernando and the development of the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, died on Thursday.
Montano, 97, was a member of the well-know Montano family which included his brother former San Fernando East MP Gerard Montano. He was the uncle of former senators Danny and Robin Montano.
He was the founder of the South Trinidad Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the predecessor company of the Energy Chamber and the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Co Ltd (Plipdeco) which led to the formation of the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.
Former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine said, “He was a giant. We don’t make them like that again in this country. People like him, Sydney Knox, Jeffrey Stollmeyer, those post World War II heroes who built TT in the 1950’ and 1960s. He was a pioneer of the modern TT economy."
Ramnarine recalled the last time he saw him was at the funeral for the late Justice Ulric Cross.
“I will never forget the outstanding picture he cut dressed completely in a white suit with all his medals pinned on him from World War II. He had a cane and was wearing a hat. This country owes him a debt of gratitude.”
Ramnarine and Energy Chamber CEO Dr Thackwray Driver said Friday was a sad day waking up to the news that two friends of the energy industry, Montano and one of the region's foremost energy journalist David Renwick had died.
“On behalf of the Energy Chamber, I want to express condolences to Mr Montano’s family. He was an absolutely wonderful gentleman. He was very passionate, eloquent and intelligent visionary. His vision for south Trinidad led to the creation of the South Chamber.
“It was his drive to integrate the deepwater port and an industrial port in Pt Lisas that led to this world class petrochemical facility today,” Driver said.
One of the former president’s of the South Chamber Diane Seukeran also remembered him as a pioneering activist who was passionate about the development of San Fernando.
“Montano was an astute businessman who was nobody’s fool. He was a man who was sharp of tongue when necessary but a most charming and chivalrous gentleman.”
Recalling an incident in Bequia where he lost an eye after being robbed and beaten in his hotel room in 2014, Seukeran said Montano never quite recovered from that incident.
In 1975, Montano was awarded the Hummingbird medal in recognition of his contribution to the economic and cultural development of TT.
Montano was instrumental in the evolution of the CAL Skiffle Steelband.
CEO of the band, San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello recalled one night in 1976, Skiffle was rehearsing a song called Romance. Montano was relaxing in his gallery a short distance away, smoking his pipe when he decided to follow the sound which led him to the top of Lambie and Jarvis Streets where the band was practising.
He remembers Montano getting out of his car, sitting very quietly on the bonnet, listening and at the end of the performance approached them.
Regrello said he introduced himself and the band then known as Skiffle Bunch and Montano offered to sponsor them.
"We became Imperial Skiffle Bunch for two years and later when Dr Williams (TT's first prime minister) suggested that corporate bodies should sponsor steelbands, Montano who was also the chairman of TCL advised TCL to sponsor Skiffle.
“He was critical to our existence and evolution and was a good friend to us. My last encounter with him was at the Naparima Bowl 50th anniversary celebration. Montano, who was instrumental in the development of the Bowl, was a guest and Skiffle was invited to play.
“He was really a good soul. He made a significant contribution to shaping the landscape of San Fernando. He was more than an entrepreneur, more than a businessman. TT owes him a lot,” Regrello said.