| Mar 11, 2010

Werner and Martha Lips in 2008 when Werner received the Addington Highlands Community Builder Award.

Werner and Martha Lips were living in Montreal some 40 years ago, when they received information from the Apostolic Church of Canada that the rector’s position was available in a little place called Denbigh, Ontario.

Somehow, Werner talked Martha into making the move to the little village, and off they went. If that didn’t seem like enough of a leap, the Apostolic Church does not pay a wage to their rectors, so not only were the Lips coming in to minister to a new community, they were also faced with making a living in an area that is not known for its economic prosperity.

It turned out that economic prosperity and community development were Werner Lips’ passions, and he became an untiring advocate for the Denbigh area and the Land O’Lakes region for decades.

After he tried a few different occupations, including running a taxi service, a local restaurant and motel called the Dutch Inn became available for purchase. Werner and Martha bought it and changed the name to the Swiss Inn because that’s where Werner came from.

It turned out that the Lips had a knack for the restaurant and motel business. They knew that it would be a mistake to ignore the local community and serve food that was only intended for the tourist trade, so they served a mixed menu, with Canadian family fare as well as the more exotic Swiss cuisine.

Over time the customers demanded more and more Swiss dishes, and the reputation of the restaurant as a regional destination grew. The motel rooms that the Lips inherited from the previous owners were in pretty bad repair, so they built an eight-unit motel in the front of the building, which remains busy to this day.

Werner also had an interest in working with neighbouring businesses to build up the tourism potential of the region. This drew him to the Land O’Lakes Tourist Association.

Janice Kerr, an Addington Highlands councilor and a former long-time employee of the Swiss Inn, said that Werner was always a great person to work for. “He was someone who never looked at competition as a bad thing. He once told me he was always very happy to see new businesses come into our area. He never thought of a new business as a threat; he thought it could only help his business if there was more available. He just thought it was good for the community.”

The Swiss Inn has also had a community role over the years, providing meals for the meals on wheels program and facilities for a satellite health clinic for Doctor Tobia of Northbrook.

Werner Lips was also associated with a group of contemporaries who were committed to improving the business climate along the Highway 41 Corridor. David Harcourt remembers Werner as a very good friend. “Along with Ted Cannon, who owned a resort on Mississagagon Lake, and Andy Anderson of the Kaladar Hotel, he was one of the founding members of the Land O'Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and he served as president on two occasions.”

Werner was also the president of the Land O'Lakes Tourist Association in 1981 and '82, and between 2002 and 2007. Other organizations he was involved with were the Highway 7 Community Development Corporation and the Addington Highlands Economic Development Committee.

Werner Lips was presented with a lifetime achievement award by Lennox and Addington County Council in 2002 and he was named Community Builder Of The Year in Addington Highlands in 2008.

Although he was able to work well with lots of different people over the years, Werner was not afraid to express his opinion when circumstances warranted it, as we learned here at the News back in 2002. Our then reporter Will Cybulski wrote an article about a provincial economic development “jump team” that had been sent into the area. In the article Cybulski said, “There is no suitable year-round accommodation, particularly of the high end calibre, in the region.”

Werner Lips wrote back in a letter to the editor: “... Please note that we have operated the Swiss Inn Motel and Restaurant for more than 30 years on an all year round basis. I feel that our motel rooms, as well as the restaurant are ‘suitable year-round’ accommodation.”

Werner Lips died on Saturday, March 6 of pancreatic cancer. His funeral will take place at the Apostolic Church in Denbigh on Saturday, March 13 at 1:00 p.m., reception to follow at the Denbigh Hall. 

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