Remembering My Mother, Elinor Hager, 1939-2013

My mother, Elinor Hager, on the set of

My mother, Elinor Hager, on the set of Adam at 6 A.M. in 1969, one of her earliest screenwriting credits.

My mother, Elinor Hager, passed away on October 21, 2013. A screenwriter for nearly 30 years, she was my teacher in communication, creativity and critical thinking. She always told me how proud she was of my teaching career. Everything I am and aspire to be comes from her.

Proverbs 6:20 (NIV)

My son, keep your fathers command and do not forsake your mothers teaching.

I study under my Heavenly Father, working to uphold his commandments. And I studied under my mother, Elinor Hager. I will never forsake her teaching.

Life with Mom was an education, an eccentric, delightful state of constant learning. No subject was off limits. No person or situation was insulated from her outrageous humor. Mom consumed the raw material of the world around her, fueling the imagination that generated a livelihood for her family, an identify for herself, a legacy for all of us who remember her.

My mother’s teaching…

As her eldest child, I became her apprentice. Mom’s love of science fiction became mine as we watched first-run episodes of Star Trek. I acquired her taste in music when she excitedly returned from the record store in 1967 and sat us down hear to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Her respect for history and human events became clear when she woke me late one June night, led me to the television, and told me Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I needed to see. I needed to listen. I needed to learn. And I did, with Mom at my side.

My mother’s teaching…

As I sought my own voice as a writer and musician, I sought her counsel and approval. The critiques were pure if sometimes painful. Mom said that she cared for me too much to lie. The lessons and the love were just as pure.

The apprentice became a partner in screenwriting. It was the era of electric typewriters and stove-top popcorn. I contributed an action scene here, a plot twist there. Eventually I moved to the higher levels of character development, longterm story arcs and dialog.

My mother’s teaching…

To me, everything is a script. It is the framework Mom used to think, to write, to entertain, to achieve. It has been my guiding premise, the approach I take in everything I create today from a press release to a syllabus. I ask myself: Do we have authentic dialog? Will people believe in what I’m saying? Will they come back for more?

That’s why Mom’s passing is so hard. It constitutes lousy screenwriting by my standards–poorly structured, poorly timed, no dramatic farewell. But it’s not up to me. The Lord called my mother home is His good way and His good time. Fade out.



Clouds part as we glide over the Hollywood Hills. PAN myriad houses clinging to the slopes until one small, perfect split-level home fills the screen.


The camera’s view ascends the stairway leading to the split-level. Someone is coming home.



Jesus opens the front door and ushers Ellie inside.


The shag rug is deep. Captain Kirk issues commands from the console TV. A crowd murmurs and an orchestra tunes up before the Lonely Hearts’ Club Band begins its fanfare. 


Ellie gives her special, knowing laugh, reserved for the rare moments when someone has actually figured her out. Jesus leads her to the dining room table. 


A Smith Corona thrums against the wooden tabletop. Eternal stocks of Jiffy-Pop popcorn and Eaton’s Corrasable Bond typing paper wait by the machine. Ellie takes her seat and launches into her next story. She looks back at the front door and smiles. 


Jesus ushers in a newcomer, the son, just a boy in bangs and bellbottoms. Jesus steps away as the son runs toward his mother. 


                    Mom, I didn’t get to say goodbye.


                    Say hello instead.

The son hugs his mother.


                    Get the door.

The son reopens the door for the children, grandchildren and loved ones coming to see Ellie, to hear the stories and learn the lessons, all per the script.

                                               FADE TO BLACK:

About Jason William Karpf

Author, Professor, Nonprofit Pro, Four-Time Jeopardy Champ
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10 Responses to Remembering My Mother, Elinor Hager, 1939-2013

  1. Charlotte Holm Matheny says:

    Hi Jason…I was a sorority sister of your mom at Northwestern…one thing I remember was your grandparents bringing a clothes supply to her every quarter…she would wear an outfit once and throw it on the floor…her room mate Marilyn drew a line across the floor and Ellie had to keep her clothes on her side…once in awhile she would pick up something from the floor ,..shake it out and put it on…I remember your dad coming to the house for meals alot…now she is with her Lord Jesus….when I get to Heaven I will have a long visit…she was a one of a kind…blessings Charlott Matheny

    • jasonkarpf says:

      Thank you for the memories. Mom often talked about the wonderful times she had as an Alpha Xi Delta sister. And yes, she is with her Lord and Savior now. I look forward to catching up with her in heaven too.

  2. Marsha Griffin says:

    Hello Jason, Your mom was my roommate at Northwestern in the fall of 1959. I was a music major and we both loved the creativity and zaniness that went with our career development. I left NU in 1962 to continue my career with Baldwin Piano Company and get married. Ellie and I lost contact with each other. Yes, neither of us liked keeping our room particularly organized, but it was no big deal then, still isn’t.

    Sure would love to see more pictures of El and hear more about her life. Am I correct in assuming she and Stephen Karpf parted ways and she re-married? Hence, the name Hager?
    Anyway, thank you for the post about your mom.
    Marsha Wespler Griffin

    • jasonkarpf says:

      Once again, another tale of Mom’s room in college (now I know where I get my organizing skills.) 🙂
      Mom had an incredible career as a screenwriter and three children, all grown now with kids of their own. She remarried in the 1990s to Bob Hager, a college instructor.
      Thank you for your kind words and wonderful memories.

  3. Marsha Griffin says:

    Thanks for the response! Any chance of posting me a couple pictures of your mom? I can still remember thinking up things to broadcast on WNUR, the university radio station! Anything
    that you think I could enjoy and laugh/cry about concerning your mom would be appreciated.


  4. Marsha Griffin says:

    Concerning organizational skills — Jason, you know what they say about a desk that’s filled with papers/all sorts of supposed clutter? They say a desk piled high with “things” is the sign of an active mind, so . . . who wants an empty desk?


  5. Pingback: Adam at 6 A.M. & Where It’s At | New Beverly Cinema

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