"Phil was always there for his community."

Those words were shared by Winkler Mayor Henry Siemens, following the passing of Philipp "Phil" Ens on Saturday at the age of 84.

Siemens said Ens was a visionary leader and generous benefactor of the community.

"He had so many opportunities to move his business (Triple E) elsewhere that would have been financially beneficial for him," said Siemens. "He always chose community over that. And then not just that, but also to develop leaders, and develop through his example contribution to the community." 

Looking back at how he shaped our community, to a large degree, Siemens said Ens showed leadership in many ways, investing in the community, growing his business in his community, and giving back over and above that through his leadership.

"I think a lot of the spirit of generosity our business community has, came from that type of an example he set," said Siemens. "He was kind. He was compassionate. He was always there to support other businesses. Many people don't know how much he supported not only the community at large, but also individual businesses as they were starting up, and sometimes when there was a need for financial support, Phil was always there for his community."

Siemens said Ens will be sorely missed.  

"I had several opportunities to engage with him and every single interaction, I always felt blessed for it. I felt I learned something from his kind spirit and generous soul."

Siemens said Phil and the Triple E community invested in the P.W. Enns Centennial Concert Hall, helping to make that project a reality.  

"And Phil, with a couple of other community leaders, helped make the Bethel Heritage Park a reality. That $1.2 million project came entirely from community donations. Phil was one of three gentlemen who knocked on countless doors to help make that possible." 

Siemens said those types of things will remain there forever to show the kind of person Ens was, and the type of leader he was. 

Phil Ens was a founding partner of Triple E Canada Ltd in 1965. The corporation has grown to be southern Manitoba's largest private employer. Today itemploys more than 670 people. Its major company divisions include Lode King Industries, a manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

Ens was involved in many philanthropic causes, having a passion for music, music education, and the arts.

From 1984 to 1999, Ens was a director on the board of Eden Foundation. During that time, he helped establish strong support for the work of the Eden organization that provides mental health recovery services for southern Manitoba and Winnipeg.

Phil's passionate support for individuals struggling with mental health issues informed his work with the Foundation. He was instrumental in developing partnerships with businesses, and the choral community including the Faith & Life choirs.

A highlight fundraiser for the Foundation was a coming home concert for his son Phillip Ens, an operatic baritone working in Germany at the time.

To a large degree, Siemens said Triple E continues to shape our community.

"The next generation of leaders, who mentored under Phil, continue that legacy. We are so blessed to have had Phil as a member of our community, as a leader in our community, as a benefactor to our community, and we're so encouraged he has passed those traits on to the next generation as well." 

"We offer our most sincere condolences to Phil's family, his friends, and ultimately to the Triple E family."

Dan Giesbrecht's relationship with Phil began more than 40 years ago, founded on the love of sports, community, and business ventures.   

"He was a person I respected deeply. He was the kind of guy you bounced ideas off of."

It was in the 1970s that Giesbrecht worked together with Ens to bring the MJHL to Winkler.   

"Phil listened patiently to my proposal, and asked lots of questions, and to end the meeting, he said, ‘You know what, I'm interested’. He was a pioneer in his own way. He was sort of in the background, I'm sure with a smile."

Giesbrecht pointed out today, every minor hockey team is wearing the Winkler Flyers sweater, here to represent Winkler and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.  

"It's full circle, in a sense. At the National Championship [Centennial Cup in Oakville, Ont.] right now there's an extended family member of the Ens family. Lucas Ens [Winkler Flyers] is Phil’s nephew's son."  

Giesbrecht will miss the wisdom and leadership that Phil contributed to help grow the community.   

"Phil Ens planted so many seeds in our community, not only in sport, but also in music and the arts and so on. He was an administrator at the Garden Valley Collegiate numerous times. There was always support for the music tours. He did that in many other communities and surrounding areas as well. But most importantly, what I think he left behind was, as a leader in our community, he created a culture which was 'Let's help out good causes’. He believed in philanthropy at various levels. I think we've certainly had a much richer life in a lot of areas, because of the seeds that Phil planted in various ways."

Former NHL player, Ray Neufeld, grew up in Winkler and recalls Phil Ens being his hockey coach as a child. 

"I was 10 years old, and Phil was my coach during those early years of hockey. I have fond memories of going to the rink and practicing and being a part of Phil’s team. It was a special time in my life, without a doubt.” 

Neufeld says that Ens was simply a special man. 

“We was kind and generous. Phil took me under his wing and pretty much anything I needed or wanted; he just went out of his way to make sure I had it. He was always gracious with all the players. He just inspired my life as a young man.” 

Neufeld reminisces of times later in life when Ens joined him for special occasions, such as being inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. 

“I invited Phil out that night. I thought it was special that he would acknowledge and come. When you play professional sports or many things in life, we're always building memories, things that we can fall back on and remember. That's a great memory I have of Phil. Teaching me a few things about the game and then being willing to sit at the table.” 

Neufeld chuckled as he recalled memories of a fishing trip with fellow NHL players, which he couldn't have done without the generosity of Ens. 

“When I was playing with The Jets, me, Laurie Boschman, Doug Smail, and Jimmy Neal, all went fishing up north to Flin Flon. We asked Phil if he would be so kind as to let us use a motor home. And certainly, he said, ‘Sure, no problem’. We took that motorhome up there and enjoyed a weekend. But while we were there, we ran into a terrible storm one night and a big tree fell on his motorhome,” Neufeld laughed, “I was like, ‘Oh, no. Now what?’ And you know, just in his true fashion, [Phil] was just so gracious and said, ‘These kinds of things just happen in life. Don't worry about it. Just bring the bring it back and we'll take care of it’. Just a wonderful man.” 

Neufeld would like to tell the Ens family just how much Phil impacted his life, and how much he appreciated their dad.  

“He did so much for so many people. My condolences. We're all going to miss him. I wish I could have associated with him and hung around a little bit more in my older years, but I have special memories with him that I'll always cherish. I know he's a man of God and a man of faith, and I certainly am too. And when we walk through the pearly gates, we'll be able to meet again and maybe play some hockey together and enjoy each other's company.” 

Click below to hear the full interview with Ray Neufeld and Connie Bailey.


1993 Winkler Community Foundation Citizen of the Year
2013 Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Hall of Fame Award

2017 Invested into the Order of Manitoba

A celebration of life for Philipp "Phil" Ens is planned for Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church.

~ With files from Connie Bailey ~