Top 10 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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  1. blubberndster on

    Notice that in Schoenbergs Case the Time 11.47 count together also is 13. Man Thais awesome.

  2. freaky stuff indeed…’s an interesting one..French queen Marrie Antoinette’s last words were: ”Pardonnez-moi, monsieur, je ne l’ai pas fait exprès.”
    meaning:’Forgive me sir, I did not do it on purpose.”
    These words were spoken to Sanson, Her executioner, when she accidentally stepped on his foot when she walked past him to put her head on the Guillotine so he can behead her .

  3. Irene Ryan, best known as Granny in the Beverly Hillbillies was appearing in the Broadway musical Pippin when she passed. Her character's big song? "Time To Start Livin'"

    But why, oh why, give Jefferson a spot on the list and not Adams? Their deaths are noteworthy for precisely the same reason– why give Jefferson the spot and stiff Adams, who is just as noteworthy in every way?

    • Don't get too torn up about it. Adam's last words were something about Jefferson living, and Jefferson's were about calling out when he was going to die and making sure it was OK.

      The events were unrelated and not a big deal. Make your own list.

  4. If you add together 1, 1, 4, 7 from the time of death of Arnold Schoenberg it also adds up to 13

  5. These are some crazy deaths. Nice job. One thing though, Jefferson and Adams were long time rivals. When Adams lay on his death bed saying “Jefferson lives,” he was unaware that his old rival had passed just hours earlier.

    • Glad I'm not the only one who knows this! Jefferson and Adams were indeed rivals, and when Adams died about four hours after Jefferson did, his last words were "Thomas Jefferson still lives." (understandable in the days before the Internet, phones, or anything that would give instant communication)

  6. also interesting is the fact that John Adams last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives”

  7. I've read a lot about Schoenberg and he definitely had some weird stuff going on with the number 13. He even shortened some of his song titles so that they wouldn't be 13 letters.

    Overall, great list. Definitely a cool idea.

  8. Interesting list, I don't think I have seen one quite like this before. It is always nice to learn about famous individuals who lived full lives. One interesting man that came to mind when reading the article was Simo Häyhä, Häyhä was a Finnish soldier and sniper that fought in numerous wars, mainly WWII. He defended Finland against the Soviet Union and recorded 505 confirmed deaths, making him the most deadly soldier in history. He was shot in face, but continued to serve his country. Amazingly Simo Häyhä lived until he was 97-years-old.