Wiggum: Well, you know how it is with cops. I'll get shot three days before retirement. In the business, we call it "retirony".
Planner: Well, what if you don't get shot?
Wiggum: What a terrible thing to say! Now look, you made my wife cry!
Retirony is a portmanteau of retirement and Irony, though how much of the latter it has is up for debate. Retirony is a way to make the audience feel sorry for a character's death without having to actually give him more than ten minutes of screen time. Anybody in a dangerous job who's only a few days away from retirement or flying one last mission before going home to marry their childhood sweetheart is absolutely doomed to death by Retirony, whether that takes the form of a cold-blooded criminal, an ace German fighter pilot or a great big robotic monster.
Just alluding to the existence of a character's family or showing a photo of them is enough for the audience to get the idea: the guy has a life outside of being a Red Shirt.
In the rare case that an exception is made, it is usually because the character is "going home to" a child, especially one his wife gave birth to after he shipped out — perhaps Improbable Infant Survival has a proxy effect? If enough of this happens, they essentially get "promoted" up to Mauve Shirt, or leave for good, alive.
Retirony is rarely played straight anymore since it has become such a well-known and joked about trope.
Probably not intentional on part of the authors, but one way to interpret Retirony is to think of how fitting it is, as a fate for the Cosmic Plaything. Suppose that God or Fate is a jerk who nevertheless cares a lot about whatever cause the "retiree" character is working for. In that case, it fits the purposes of fate perfectly to let him survive until it's time to retire, but as soon as he's got no more victories to win, then he's outlived his usefulness and there's no reason not to let him suffer if that's more fun to watch.
Compare Died on Their Birthday, where death ironically coincides with another life milestone.
See also Tempting Fate, Fatal Family Photo, If We Get Through This…, Nothing Can Stop Us Now!, Nothing Can Save Us Now and Resignations Not Accepted. Related to Yank the Dog's Chain. Contrast Crusading Widow, where the one to die is the cop's family. For the equivalent in material goods, see some variants of Action Insurance Gag.
Not to be confused with retroactive Irony.
Since this is a death trope, there are unmarked spoilers in the examples.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Films - Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Western Animation
- Workplace Insurance Safety Board (WSIB): The Toronto, Ontario-based group produced a series of PSAs in 2006 and 2007 detailing the consequences of neglecting safety in the workplace. At least two of them feature a form of Retirony:
- A young sous chef who takes the brunt of an accident involving her slipping on a patch of grease while carrying a pot of boiling hot water. One second, she is talking about her engagement and dream wedding, and plans to become head chef at the upscale restaurant she is working; the next second, she is screaming in pain, having had the water spilled on her.
- A construction worker who falls to his death after being blown off a tall building when his torch ignites several liquid gas tanks near where he is working. One second, he is detailing plans to take his family on an extended vacation (and also sharing other family accomplishments); an instant later, he lands so hard on the roof of a passing truck his body bounces to the pavement.
- An insurance company one: two friends are in a food court; one is a thin active cyclist who is berating the other, a large overweight slob gorging on a cheeseburger and fries. The skinny fellow is telling his friend that his diet and lifestyle will kill him, whereas the fit friend will live for years. Then the fast-food sign falls from the ceiling, crushing the skinny guy.
- Héctor in Coco had decided to give up the life of a traveling musician and return home to his family, but then died from eating some bad chorizo. Or so he thought. He was actually murdered by his partner who then stole all his unpublished lyrics, making it more a case of Resignations Not Accepted.
- In Epic (2013) Queen Tara is on her last day of being in charge. When she's picking her replacement, the villains show up, and well...
- In The LEGO Ninjago Movie, a Shark Army General announces he has one day until retirement before he's blasted by one of Lloyd's Dragon Mech's missiles. Subverted when it's revealed he survived and he appears in later scenes, but it doesn't stop him from being fired by Garmadon.
- "I Was Only Nineteen" by Redgum, a song about The Vietnam War, contains the line:
And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon
God help me... he was going home in June.note
- The pilot in Kim Wilde's song "Cambodia" goes missing in action just when his wife is expecting him to return home.
- The protagonist in Cold Chisel's "When The War Is Over" fears becoming this. He also mentions that if he makes it back alive, he won't be the same man.
- The cowboy in Michael Martin Murphey's "When the Work's All Done This Fall" hasn't seen his home "since very long ago" and is planning to return as soon as this cattle-herding season ends.
Charlie died at daybreak; he died from a fall.
He'll not see his mother when the work's all done this fall.
- "El Bandito" in "Cross the Brazos at Waco" is planning on giving up the outlaw life to be with his sweetheart. He's caught and shot dead by the posse one stanza after discarding "the guns she hated."
- An aversion happens in "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" by Kathy Mattea. The song is about a truck driver named Charlie who is on his last haul before retiring to go be with his wife. The song seems like a setup for him to crash and never make it home, but amazingly (especially since it was a Country Music song), he does.
- The narrator of Iron Maiden's "Ghost of the Navigator" starts the song with "I have sailed to many lands Now I make my final journey"... and in his final journey he meets either actual ghost ships or is haunted by the idea of retiring.
- Dave Dudley's "Last Day in the Mines" (1964). A miner decides to quit and start a new life with his beloved Ginny. Then with minutes left to go on his final shift, the mine caves in.
- One interpretation of Warren Zevon's "Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song)" sees the central character die during his intended final match (although both aspects are kept ambiguous).
- In the folk ballad Will Watch, the Bold Smuggler Will promises his sweetheart that this will be his last run: with the money he'll have made, he'll be able to settle down and live honestly. It proves to be his last run, because he meets a Revenue man's bullet coming the wrong way.
- Parodied in a The Now Show routine about increasing the retirement age, which imagines an action movie where a cop gets killed two days before retirement, and rather than swearing revenge for this waste of a life, his partner just says "Well, he was 87. He had a good run."
- Dino Attack RPG has what might be not only a subversion but an inversion with Montoya. He was a former small-time crook involved with a big heist on a multi-million dollar corporation and the one member of the crew who had been planning to go clean when he was done. The heist was a disaster as a result of interference from one Silencia Venemosa and Montoya was one of only two men to escape from the massacre with their lives. Fast forward a few years later to the actual Dino Attack, and not only has Montoya successfully gone clean but his only surviving partner and Silencia herself are killed in the final battle, making him the last surviving participant of the heist.
- The D&D campaign setting Masque of the Red Death has the adventure "Red Tide". A sailor writes in his journal that he's about to propose marriage to his girlfriend as soon as he gets home. He's murdered by a vampire a short time later.
- The Shadowrun supplement "Cutting Black" features a National Guard Sergeant First Class who is "six days and a wake-up" from retiring when he's sent in to find a UCAS Army Corps that mysteriously vanished. His last recorded transmission is about fourteen hours later.
- Notably subverted in The History Boys: Hector is being forced to retire early because the headmaster has discovered that he had been groping his students. At the end of the show, he is allowed to come back next year, only to be killed on his way home when his motorbike crashes.
- In The Rose Tattoo, when Assunta tells Serafina that her husband's job smuggling dope under bananas in his 10-ton truck could lead him to get killed, Serafina protests that tonight is his last run for the Brothers Romano and that he can start making his own living tomorrow. Serafina waits in vain for the return of the truck and its driver, which meet a fiery end together before the next morning.
- In Beatriz Overseer, one particular young mouse woman was forced into becoming an assassin to pay off her father's debts. Taking out a certain Overseer was supposed to be her very last job...and it was. Note that all of this is mentioned only in Word of God; in the comic proper she's a nameless mook who gets brutally cut down by our protagonist. (At least she canonically also goes to Heaven.)
- Parodied in the "Henchman Retirement" arc of Evil, Inc... The company has to find a way to off the soon-to-be-retired oldest living henchman, Abe Vitale, otherwise they'll go bankrupt from his $28,000,000.00-a-year pension. "No one ever expected a henchman to retire" and the investment funds were misused due to a misprint and lost. And he ends up killed by the cork on the champagne at his party.
- Done again when elderly supervillain Mister Shiver goes on one last heist, and while running from Captain Heroic he has a heart attack.
- Girl Genius:
- A Genre Savvy overseer stops a prisoner just before she can declare that she's nearly earned her freedom. "Fool! Never total your points out loud!" This one is justified by the fact that they are all prisoners in a giant, sentient, psychopathic castle which thinks it has a sense of humor; it is entirely possible that announcing how close you are to freedom there could directly get you killed, and the other prisoners aren't much better; there's no need to give them a new reason to kill you.
- Carson von Mekkhan inverts the trope: he retired three days before his place of work was attacked and blown up. His replacement — who was, tragically, his son — died instead.
- In the Magellan side story, "Families/Cемьи", Soviet heroes Red Vlad and Comrade Katya had discovered that the missions they thought were great patriotic victories over evil Western Capitalism were staged propaganda events and the threats their superiors used to keep them in line were bluffs. They started to make plans to go grab their son (whom they'd hidden away from their superiors) and defect, when the Q'Arth invasion began. Vlad and Katya agreed that stopping these strange monsters would be their last great mission for the motherland. Long time readers knew that Vlad and Katya were among the first to fall to the Q'Arth.
- Occurs in this strip of Nuzlocke. Loudred notes that while he may currently have the lowest stats on the team, he'll evolve in one level and be back on top again. Naturally, he was the one who died. It was even lampshaded in the comments, with a direct reference to this trope.
- Lampshaded by the Genre Savvy Elan in this The Order of the Stick.
- Played straight in another strip where a police chief announces he's getting too old for thi-
- Also played with in the Adventure Game, where one of the illustrations of Haley's Sneak Attack is a goblin who says it's his last day before retirement, not realizing Haley's hiding behind the door, weapon ready.
- Played with in The Strongest Suit. Seven of Hearts is killed on what would have been the last patrol into the Dark Lands… by his fellow soldier Five who doesn't want the patrols to end for as-yet-unknown reasons.
- xkcd: This strip shows an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to defy the trope, with an officer dying the day before his last day on the job, when the department locks retiring officers into a heavily protected room for that day.
- Coker from Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome was just waiting through the final weeks of his time in the service when the "milk run" on which he was sent with Bill Adama (whose own survival was a Foregone Conclusion) turned into a fight for his life. Near the end, he is seriously wounded with multiple gunshot wounds and he seems to accept his fate by handing a Fatal Family Photo to Bill before his eyes close. Then we see him alive and in recovery.
- In C0DA, during the Videoverse segment, Alandro Sul mentions being two weeks away from retirement when he is pulled into the battle between the "Pseudo-6th-House" (a superhero team of Physical Gods) and the forces of "The Intellective", "a bionic despot of a parallel reality". The action cuts away before we see the end result, and it is unknown if Sul survives. (His distant descendant, Jubal-lun-Sul, is the main character of C0DA.)
- Exaggerated in Critical Role, as the Chroma Conclave attacks Emon during Sovereign Uriel's retirement speech.
- The Dorkly article, "These Eight Characters are Definitely Going to Die", includes in the list, "The Two-Week-Till Retiree".
How They’re Going to Die: Ironically.
Why: Because now It's Personal. Before it was just about stopping a murderous crime spree, but NOW you give a shit because they killed your older-cop-buddy-guy.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged has Zarbon wanting to call his girlfriend to see where they were going to spend their one-year anniversary together. Vegeta blows his load all over his insides.
- Gaia Online: Labtech 062 was killed (...sort of) during his retirement party.
- This scene from How It Should Have Ended's take on The Avengers has one Chitauri planning to retire right before the end scene.
- The Nostalgia Critic:
- Referenced repeatedly in the review of Alone in the Dark (2005)
Linkara: And it probably doesn't help that the security guard has just two days left before retirement.
Spoony: And it's probably a bad thing to mention that every single one of these soldiers has just two days left before retirement.
Spoony: And you know, what makes it really tragic is that everyone in the city had just two days left till retirement!
Linkara and NC: Shut up!
- And the review of Hook just after Peter Pan slices the world's slowest moving coconut thrown towards him.
NC: That coconut had just two days left until retirement. You bastard!
- Referenced repeatedly in the review of Alone in the Dark (2005)
- Parodied in this article at The Onion. And this one, coming in from the other direction.
- Pokémon Ralphie:
- The cop at the end of the third episode goes on about how his wife is pregnant with their eighth child and how he's about to retire, just before he and his partner are crushed by the Machamp being ridden by Ralphie and Red's son.
- The four cops in the S.S. Anne barricade were having a group retirement party that night, and Detective Squirtle took them because he "thought it would be an easy bust." They all die when Ralphie rams his car into the barricade.
- Invoked in a Tweet responding to a comment by Gail Simone about wearing a white shirt to a pasta place.
YOU'RE A LOOSE CANNON, SIMONE! That shirt is 2 days from retirement!
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series spin-off, Marik Plays: Bloodlines, there's a bit where Marik is lamenting the fact that he killed a hooker and mentions that "She only had a few days left until hooker retirement".
- In the Internet novel Spliced, Alex and his siblings make their escape while there's a retirement party going on downstairs. They blow up the lab.
- Capt. Edward Smith of the RMS Titanic had announced his intention to retire after the ship had completed its maiden voyage. A ship widely promoted as "unsinkable" and a captain on his last voyage; honestly, they just didn't stand a chance. A common misconception is that he was going to be retired when they arrived in New York. It would have taken effect once the Titanic had returned to England. However, there is some debate amongst historians as to whether Smith would have actually retired when the Titanic returned to England. He made some comments saying that he looked forward to commanding the Britannic when she was completed. That said, a retirement party was held for Captain Smith by some of the First Class passengers only a few hours before the sinking.
- Relating to Titanic, Ned Parfett was a London newspaper boy who was photographed holding the headline "TITANIC DISASTER: GREAT LOSS OF LIFE," which became an iconic image of the tragedy. He went on to serve in World War I, and was killed less than two weeks before the armistice. Adding onto this, he was actually about to go home on leave, and the German shell that killed him landed while he was in the quartermaster's stores looking for a clean uniform to travel in.
- This is the worst: A 60-year-old Japanese man was accidentally killed by his coworkers at his retirement party.
- Michael Jackson was going to retire from music after one last run of shows. But it didn't work out.
- The Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen was finally shot down two days before he was due to go home on leave. For added irony, his last words were to a fan begging for an autograph: "What's your hurry? Are you afraid I won't come back?"
- Making it into the history books because you were the last man shot before the war ended is kind of embarrassing.
- A police dog was killed chasing a criminal a week before he was going to retire. This seems to be a not uncommon trope for police dogs.
- The US military will practice troop rotation for overseas deployments. The period in which a soldier is on the tail end of deployment is often considered the most dangerous, as the soldier is likely to be thinking about going home to safety and getting out of the war, possibly letting down his or her guard.
- The Fukushima I - 1 nuclear reactor was badly damaged in the days following the 2011 Sendai earthquake. The earthquake occurred just over two weeks before the reactor was scheduled to be shut down.
- Shigeru Yokosawa, a sixty-year-old hospital admin in Iwate Prefecture's coastal Rikuzen-Takata, would have retired at the end of March 2011, had he not given his life by, in the face of an approaching ten-meter tsunami, rushing to the first floor of the building to retrieve the hospital's satellite phone. The phone he saved became his colleagues' only lifeline to the outside world right after the disaster and was later decorated with a legend reading "Yokosawa's phone. Our chief is helping us from heaven."
- The captain of Continental Airlines Flight 603, which overran the runway and was destroyed by fire after several tires blew during the takeoff roll, was reportedly about to retire. He survived, but two of his passengers didn't.
- Charles M. Schulz died just hours before the last Peanuts comic strip was published. That being said, Schulz technically already had retired. He drew the final strip several weeks before it was printed. Still, his retirement was exceedingly short-lived.
- 70-year-old aid worker Warren Weinstein was kidnapped in Pakistan two days before his scheduled completion of work and return to the US.
- There's at least one case of someone cleaning out his office on one of the Towers the morning of 9/11 (although in this case, it was due to switching to a better job rather than retiring).
- Speaking of 9/11, police officer John Perry was filing his retirement papers that very morning at 1 Police Plaza (located a few blocks from the World Trade Center), when he learned of the attack. He rushed down to the Trade Center and disappeared, killed when the South Tower collapsed. The only off-duty officer to die that day, Perry's remains were never found.
- Also, Mike Warchola, a lieutenant with the fire department of New York, had handed in his retirement papers and was scheduled to work his last shift on 9/11. He made it up to the 40th floor before the towers collapsed.
- Dermot Morgan died of a heart attack just 24 hours after finishing filming the last series of Father Ted.
- Bryan Moseley played Alf Roberts in Coronation Street from 1961 to 1998, when his health began to fail. After being absent for six months he returned in July 1998, but was forced by the writers to retire shortly afterwards. He was unhappy, noting that "I feel like a new man, the best I have felt for three years, and I kept telling the producers I was getting better all the time." His character died on New Years Day 1999; he died 9 February 1999.
- Andy Rooney passed away on November 4, 2011, one month after his final regular segment on 60 Minutes. "Y'know, I always wondered ... why do some celebrities die shortly after their retirement? I remember, when I was a kid, WE never did stuff like that."
- In Canadian Politics, Jack Layton had been campaigning as federal NDP leader for the job of Prime Minister several elections in a row, and almost every time was dismissed in popular opinion as the candidate who didn't have a chance. In the 2011 election, he managed to make it at least to official opposition leader statusnote ... but died just a couple months afterwards (he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer months before the election, though).
- The police chief of Greenland, New Hampshire was killed in a drug bust gone bad on April 12, 2012. He was two weeks from retirement.
- Captain Dezső Szentgyörgyi, highest-scoring World War II ace of the Hungarian air force: survived 220 sorties and shot down 29 enemy planes without ever crashing or being shot down, then went on to log more than 12,000 hours of civilian flight. Died three weeks from retirement when his Ilyushin IL-18 crashed due to a freak storm.
- Jim Croce, with a young child at home and little money coming in due to poor management, meant to get off the road and settle down with his family. Because a concert in Sherman, Texas was canceled, he opted to take one last "makeup gig" at the venue before the end of the tour. His plane crashed into a pecan tree, the only one seen for miles in an otherwise clear area, during a dense fog one hour after he played a show in Louisiana, instantly killing Croce, his backing guitarist, and four others.
- Soap Opera actor John Ingle, who played Edward Quartermaine on General Hospital, died shortly after the last scenes that he had filmed were aired. He'd decided to retire only a few months earlier.
- Thomas Klestil, who had served almost twelve years as President of Austria, died from multiple organ failure just two days before he was set to retire.
- Mary Sherlach, a school psychologist who tried to stop Adam Lanza during the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. This article about her even name-checks this trope.
- Chris Benoit was on the eve of his final title run before being phased out of regular competition into being a trainer and road agent — semi-retirement for pro wrestlers. Then … you know.
- In a comedic sense of this trope, Item 107 in the 2008 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt List read: "A cop with three days left until retirement. That same cop, three days later, alive and well."
- Roger Ebert got hit with this. His final blog post, on April 2, 2013, has him announcing his retirement from the Chicago Sun-Times and plans he had in store for his soon-to-launch personal website. He had also changed his mind about denying himself cancer treatment. Two days later, he died.
- In August 2012, Country Music legend George Jones announced plans to retire after going on one final tour in 2013. On April 26, 2013, he died after having been hospitalized for over a week for a fever and irregular blood pressure.
- A more infamous example would be Joe Paterno, who was forced out of Penn State for his role in the Sandusky abuse scandal, before dying of his illness in absolute disgrace. A statue of him on campus, built in his honor (before the revelations came to light), was demolished in the aftermath of the scandal.
- In this story, a security guard due to retire in one year after 36 years of service was gunned down in a highway robbery. The article notes the example of Retirony in the first paragraph.
- Alabama football coach Bear Bryant retired in late December 1982. When he was asked what he planned to do since he was retired, Bryant replied, "Probably croak in a week." He died of a heart attack four weeks after making that statement.
- One of the world's most famous bullfighters, Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez better known as Manolete, was killed in 1947 by the bull Islero on what was planned to be his last performance.
- Tim Treadwell and Amie Huguenard were supposed to leave Katmai National Park the morning after the night they were killed. They would have left the week before, had Tim not decided to extend camping in the last moment. Amie was also going to start a new job in another week, and her last journal entries indicate that she was terrified of the bears and wanted to be away from Katmai.
- A New York City cop who never took a sick day in 42 years died of a heart attack a few weeks before his mandatory retirement.
- The Sayano-Shushenskaya hydro-electric power plant's number 2 turbine had a rated life of 30 years. It had been running 29 years and 10 months when freak vibrations broke the restraints, causing the whole turbine assembly to lift inside the main building and wreck the whole place.
- In England early 2015, a female teacher was stabbed by a student in front of her class and died. She was two days from retirement.
- Narrowly averted by Formula One driver Romain Grosjean at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. It had already been announced that he would be leaving the Haas team at the end of the season, and it was widely believed that he would be leaving the sport as well, leaving him two races from retirement excluding Bahrain. On Lap 1, a collision with Danill Kvyat sent his car into and through the trackside barrier, causing it to tear in half and explode into flames. Miraculously, he climbed Out of the Inferno and survived with nothing more than minor burns to his hands. Had the same crash happened just a few years earlier, the trope would almost certainly have been played straight.
- Ernest M. McSorley was 63 years old and planned to retire two years early at the end of the 1975 shipping season, as his wife didn't like his being away ten months out of the year. On 10 November 1975, steering the SS Edmund Fitzgerald through the worst Lake Superior gale seen in decades, his boat (all vessels on the Great Lakes are boats, regardless of tonnage) sank suddenly, taking all hands with her. His last words were, "We are holding our own."
- A subversion: in September 2015, a Boeing 777-200 with one wing on fire was safely landed in Las Vegas, saving all 170 on board. The pilot, Chris Henkey, was a week from retirement.
- Awesomely subverted by Captain David Cronin of United Airlines. When a cargo door opened in flight over the Pacific, causing an explosive decompression, he was nonetheless able to land the crippled jet at Honolulu safely, despite it being overloaded, two engines destroyed and damage to the wing flaps meaning he had to land much faster than normal. The only casualties were nine passengers who had the misfortune to be seated where the door failed. Captain Cronin was on his second-to-last flight before retirement. He passed away peacefully in October 2010, 21 years after the incident.
- A store clerk in Florida was killed on the night of his final shift. He had been convinced to retire after being injured during a robbery the month before.
- The case of Q from the James Bond movies is irregular. In The World Is Not Enough, the last time Q is seen onscreen in this film, Bond comments on his appointing an assistant (R, played by John Cleese) and asking if he was planning to retire. Q's final lines are two words of advice. The actor who played Q for nearly four decades, Desmond Llewelyn, was sadly killed in a car accident after the film opened, forcing the filmmakers to retire the character outright. Cleese's R was promoted to Q for Die Another Day. After Die Another Day, the franchise was rebooted for the Daniel Craig films, so beginning with Skyfall, the much younger Ben Whishaw was cast as Q.
- In early October 2016, three Palm Springs, California police officers were shot, two fatally, while responding to a domestic dispute involving a career felon. One of the officers killed was two months from retirement.
- The founder of Toys "R" Us, Charles Lazarus, died just one week after his business announced they were going into liquidation. Lazarus is still dead, but the Toys R Us brand was bought by Tru Kids Brands, and revived the store in 2019.
- Among the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting in 2018 was Sgt. Ron Helus, a sheriff's deputy who was set to retire the next year.
- In 1945, General George S. Patton was severely injured in a car accident two days before he was due to go home on Christmas leave, dying twelve days later. On top of that, he had grown dissatisfied with his command of the 15th Army, which had been tasked with compiling a complete history of the war, and he had intended to not return to Europe at the end of his leave, either seeking a command stateside or retiring from the army.
- Amelia Earhart planned to retire as a pilot after her fateful trip around the world. She never made it past the Pacific Ocean.
- One of the men in the infamous Flight 19 that disappeared over The Bermuda Triangle in 1945 was due to end his military service the next day.
- Carroll Spinney died just a few weeks into the broadcast of what he had planned to be his final season of Sesame Street.
- In a mechanical variation, rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to terminate the lease on their aging Convair CV-240 after a nerve-wracking engine fire, planning to acquire a better plane when they reached Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a few days later. On the flight to Baton Rouge, the plane ran out of fuel due to an error by the pilots. (This also marked the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd as it had been, as the band's lead vocalist and figurehead was killed in the crash.)
- In 1984, Bradford City were repeatedly informed that the main stand at their Valley Parade stadium was an unacceptable fire hazard, due to its wooden construction and the large amount of litter that had accumulated beneath it. Bradford agreed to tear it down and rebuild it out of steel, and demolition was scheduled to begin two days after their final match of the 1984/85 season, against Lincoln City. Shortly before half time, a discarded cigarette ignited the litter beneath the stand, and in a matter of minutes the entire stand was ablaze, killing 56 people.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt would have been the first president to resign, albeit for reasons of declining health, if he hadn't suffered that "terrific pain in the back of [his] head" before the end of World War II. He is to this day the only American President to succumb to this trope.
- Takarazuka Revue Moon Troupe actress Hiromi Kazuki was planning to announce her graduation/retirement from the troupe, feeling that she couldn't advance any further up the ranks. On April 1, 1958, she was called into a performance of Flower Troupe's Yodogimi/We Children in the Flowers as a replacement for Yuri Hinatsu, who was out sick with a cold. Hiromi's costume was caught in the mechanics of the lift following the end of a scene and an upcoming quick change for the next scene. She was wearing an underskirt with a metal band about the waist, and when her costume became stuck she was unable to free herself. Her feet were dragged into the moving mechanism and the metal band cut into her torso, killing her right in front of her scene-mate, Minako Matsushima.
- Admiral John S. McCain Sr., the grandfather and namesake of Senator McCain, died only four days after Japan surrendered in 1945.
- Jack Barry wrapped up the 1983–84 season of The Joker's Wild with the intention of naming Jim Peck as his successor on the next season's premiere. Weeks after the previous season stopped taping, Barry went into fatal cardiac arrest while jogging in Central Park.
- Florida Governor Lawton Chiles died unexpectedly of a heart attack three weeks before his retirement after term limits mandated him to leave. Ironically, this caused Buddy MacKay, the Lieutenant Governor who just lost the gubernatorial election to Jeb Bush, to become governor for 24 days during the lame duck period.
- In 1918, a railroad engineer on the Nashville Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad was operating the inbound train #1 for Nashville, Tennessee, as his last run before retirement. He never got the chance, as the outbound train #4 that was supposed to wait for his train to arrive (since the section was a single track line without signals) mistook a passing switcher for that train and left seven minutes behind schedule. They met on a blind curve at a combined speed of 100 miles an hour and crashed into each other head on, causing the deadliest train wreck on American soil to date.
- The Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico—which had been the largest radio telescope for over 50 years—was having a problem with its cables failing. After one snapped in November 2020, it was determined that it was too dangerous to repair, and the National Science Foundation decided to demolish it. On December 1, more cables snapped, and the whole instrument platform crashed into the dish.
- A 54-year-old sheriff's deputy from Florida was killed in a vehicular ramming attack one day before his retirement in 2021.
- Coal baron Robert Murray, who got some publicity in his late years for his feud with John Oliver (Oliver criticized him harshly in a 2017 episode of Last Week Tonight and Murray filed a Frivolous Lawsuit in retaliation, recounted in 2019), announced his retirement from his eponymous company on October 19, 2020, and died six days later.
- In 1920, Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman indicated that he might retire from professional baseball after that season. On August 16, he was fatally injured in a freak batting accident.
- Non-human example: on May 21st, 1946, physicist Louis Slotin's hand slipped while demonstrating an experiment with the so-called "Demon Core" causing a criticality accident that killed him and exposed several others to large doses of radiation note . That day's demonstration was scheduled to be the last before the core was integrated into an atomic bomb.
- The Pink Panther franchise would have reached a more fitting conclusion had Peter Sellers (who played Inspector Clouseau) not perished just before the planned final installment, Romance of the Pink Panther, was to enter production.
- NASCAR driver Fireball Roberts died in a crash during the 1964 World 600 on May 24th, 1964, from severe burns. The race would have supposedly been one of his last before retirement.
- On March 6, 2022, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) experienced a major power failure. This was due to an issue with half-century old power cabling which had been scheduled to be replaced on March 10, 2022. It worked for fifty years and failed less than a week before it was due to be retired.
- In June 2022, a man who was cycling the length of the UK for charity suffered a fatal heart attack only 28 miles from the finish line.
- When Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, construction had not even started on "The Florida Project," his vision of a future city anchored by a larger version of his Disneyland park. His older brother Roy O. Disney, who had long handled the business side of their partnership, came out of retirement to ensure that Walt's final dream would come true. With the company hesitant to build an entire city from scratch, he choose to focus on a theme park resort that he would dedicate to his late brother, ultimately becoming known as Walt Disney World. The herculean efforts to build the new park took a tremendous toll on Roy's health, and he died two months after the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. While he never made any formal plans to retire due to his focus on "The Florida Project," Walt also died just over three months before Pirates of the Caribbean, the final attraction that he personally envisioned and led the development of, opened at Disneyland in March 1967. While Walt had a hand in designing The Haunted Mansion, it actually opened nearly three years after his death due to its long development troubles.
- It's technically a borderline case in that he was already retired, but Thai Navy diver Saman Gunan came back as a volunteer to help with the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, went to work with his old unit, and was the only person to die in the caves during the rescue. His story features in the Docudrama Thirteen Lives, which does rather play into the trope.