Top Ten Timely Deaths

You read and hear about so many “untimely” deaths in our world today, but what about the rare and poetic “timely” deaths that occur? Here is a list that shows the Grim Reaper can be very timely indeed.

10. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Playwright

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Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright and poet. He was often referred to as the “father of modern drama” and he left his mortal coil with his title seemingly in mind. While laying in his deathbed, a nurse told visitors in his room that he was doing a little better. Ibsen, without opening his eyes, uttered: “Tvertimod” (“On the contrary”). He died shortly after without speaking another word.

9. Domitian (51-96 AD), Roman Emperor

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Early in his life, astrological predictions had determined Domitian would be murdered around noon on September 18, 96 AD. When the date arrived he waited out the prophecy in his bedroom. His servants were were conspiring to murder him and lured him from his quarters by telling him it was after noon and he would be safe. He was then told his niece’s steward, Stephanus, had important news about a plot to murder him. When Domitian visited Stephanus, the steward gave him a list of conspirators as a distraction and then stabbed him with the help of four accomplices. He died, as was predicted, close to noon.

8. Leonard Warren (1911-1960), Opera Singer

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Warren was in a performance of La forza del destino when he died on stage. Eyewitnesses report that Warren had completed La Forza’s Act III aria, which begins “Morir, tremenda cosa” (“to die, a momentous thing”), and was then supposed to open a sealed wallet, examine the contents and cry out “E salvo, o gioia” (“He is safe, oh joy”). But as fate would have it, he died of a heart attack after his prophetic statement on death.

7. Elizabeth Ryan (1892-1979), Tennis Player

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Ryan won 19 Wimbledon championships during her tennis career and her record lasted 45 years. On July 7, 1979, Billie Jean King won her 20th Wimbledon title, breaking the long-standing record by Ryan. But Ryan avoided seeing her record broken, as she died the night before while in the Wimbledon clubhouse.

6. Arnold Schoenberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951), Composer

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Schoenberg suffered from triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13, and believed the number 13 would play a role in his death. His superstitious nature may have, indeed, caused his death. He dreaded his 76th year (7+6=13) when he discovered July 13 of that year (1951) fell on a Friday. When the day arrived, he stayed in bed for what he suspected would be his last day on earth. In a letter to Schoenberg’s sister Ottilie, dated August 1951, his wife, Gertrud, reported, “About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold’s throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end.” His time of death was 11:47 p.m., 13 minutes until midnight. (His time of death has been shown as 11:45 as well).

5. Charles Davies (1927-1995), Singer

At the age of 67, Davies was performing at the Cotsworld Male Voice Choir in England. He was singing a farewell song, “Good-bye” and finished with the words, “I wish you all a last good-bye” As the crowd stood and applauded, Davies collapsed and died.

4. George Story

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The first Life magazine featured a picture of a newborn baby. That baby was George Story. The cover read, “Life Begins.” Throughout the publication life of the magazine, readers were updated on his life events up until the day he died. On April 4, 2000, only a few days after Life announced it would stop publication, Story died. Poetically, the final issue of Life printed one last article about George Story. It was simply titled, “A Life Ends.”

3. Mark Twain (1835-1910), Writer

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Mark Twin was born during the passing of Halley’s Comet in 1835. He said that he had come into the world with Halley’s Comet and would leave the world with it as well. True to his word, he died on April 21, 1910 as Halley’s comment returned.

2. Charles Schulz (1922-2000), Cartoonist

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In 1999 Charles Schulz announced his upcoming retirement due to poor health. He died February 12, 2000 the night before the last original Peanuts comic ran in newspapers. Fellow cartoonist Lynn Johnson (“For Better of Worse”) said, “He made one last deadline. There’s romance in that.”

1. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President

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The former president was 83-years-old at the time of his death. He had not been feeling well but had hopes of lasting until July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He asked from his sickbed, “This is the Fourth?” When he was told it was, he died quietly. Coincidentally, his good friend and former president, John Adams passed away just hours later.

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