Imagine Your Last Day of Work Ever. Here’s Theirs.

Among life’s major milestones — think graduations, weddings, even annual events like birthdays and anniversaries — the retirement day is notably lacking in cultural convention, shared ritual. (Even the ceremonial gold watch today seems more the stuff of myth than reality.) It mostly tends to fall to co-workers, family, even retirees themselves to conjure, ad hoc, a celebratory send-off. Here’s a look at how a range of new retirees marked the end of their working days.

Arthur Jay

Fabric-store owner, 82, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Arthur Jay didn’t think he would spend his life running the family business. After growing up around his parents’ first fabric store on Long Island, he left to attend college and then to pursue a career in management at Kmart. But when Jay was 27, his father died unexpectedly, so he had to take over at Jay’s Fabric Center in St. Petersburg. Jay still wonders about what could have been, but over the last 54 years, he found his way to quiet moments of job satisfaction: helping someone pick out colors for a bedspread, planning custom draperies. “For me, every customer that came in was a different opportunity,” he says. “If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, getting up every day would be a drudgery.”

Jay outside his store.

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