Ellen Dorothea Eierle
Ellen Dorothea Eierle
  • January 31, 1937 - February 2, 2017
  • Escondido, California

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Ellen Dorothea Eierle (born Hagenah)
January 31, 1937 - February 2, 2017
80 years old

Born to Gustav Hagenah in Otterndorf, Germany and his wife Margarete Hagenah
(born Klass). Survived by her son Carl, daughter-in-law Charlotte, and 4 grandchildren:
Christopher, Alexander, Sabrina, and Sydney in Florida. Also survived by her sisters
Majotte, Herma, Margarete, and Helene in Germany. She leaves behind great friends
Nancy, Carol, Mark, Patrick and Wayne in California who were family to her. As she had
wished, her earthly body will be cremated and retire with her son Carl to be dispersed in
the Atlantic Ocean - that body of water that separated her two worlds. Her spirit will
retire with Our Creator and live on through her progeny.

Her story, rewritten by her son, a retired Naval Officer, from paraphrased remarks
made in 2003 and again in 2014.

"I'd like to honor a person who never had a banquet in her honor and who was never the
subject of flowery speeches. In a small town in the coastal north, Ellen Hagenah was
born and raised in war-torn Germany to a merchant ship captain and his family. She
was the 4th of 7 children. Her father Gustav was a merchant sailor in a time when ships
were wooden and men were steel. The Hagenahs were sailors who traced their seagoing
roots back to the 14th Century. Gustav was also a local hero remembered for his courage
in braving the furious Allied maelstrom of Hamburg to resupply the people of that city
with food and medicine. His ship, the Helene -- named for my great grandmother -- was
knocked clear of the water several times by bombs and mines but never sunk, and his
determination never wavered. For Ellen, the bombings, the blackouts, the curfews, the
hunger, the malnutrition, the illness were the tapestry of her times, but if you asked about
her childhood, she could make it sound like Disneyland. She was an optimist. As she
became an adolescent, the reality of life in postwar Germany came into sharper focus
and she sought a better way - a life of promise and opportunity. That opportunity came
in the form of a planned encounter with another young lady who stood watch in New
York harbor as the beacon of liberty. My mom immigrated to America as a teenager,
alone and unafraid. Her family stayed behind in Germany. With only a dose of
elementary education, a large heaping of personal courage, and a commitment to
improve her life, she went to work by day and learned English at night. She became a
naturalized US citizen. Years later, she met a Bavarian immigrant, they married and had
a son. After 2 years, Ellen was a single mother and times were hard. It would have been
easy to quit America, but she still believed in the promise. Her hope was for the next
generation, and the belief that all things were possible with determination and hard
work. Welfare, food stamps, and handouts were refused. Those were for folks who
couldn't work. It was not her way. The Hagenahs were a hardened and determined
people from the hardscrabble north coast of Germany. Ellen worked 2 and 3 jobs for
quite a number of years during that time. For the first 12 to 13 years of his life, Ellen
rarely saw her son, and the son rarely saw his mother. Most of my care was left to a
nanny who cared for children of single parents. My earliest memories of any serious
conversation with my mother were centered on the value of education, discipline, and
hard work. She ensured that her son went to the best schools regardless of cost. She
would say, "If you can get there, we'll find a way." and we always did. She never
remarried, but remained solely dedicated to ensuring the success of her progeny. By any
accounting, her son and his family prospered, but that prosperity was bought and paid
for by a selfless woman of a bygone generation. The price that was paid exacted a great
toll in terms of her own opportunities and happiness. She never got a chance to stand at
a podium and accept accolades like her son. Because of failing health, she could not
attend my overseas retirement from the Navy in 2014. The Navy core values of Honor,
Courage, and Commitment are a guiding vision for everyone wearing a Navy uniform. I
challenged my audience to reflect on who has demonstrated more honor, more courage,
more commitment? I have argued time and again that Ellen, a little old German lady
who lived in California, a gentle soul who was a lamb of God, taught me more about
hard work, discipline, commitment, courage, and honor than anyone wearing a Navy
uniform. My good life is the result of a debt that cannot be repaid. I can only say thank
you and pass it on to my children. Mom, Oma, you will always be loved and respected.
Rest in Peace."