There are funerals and then there are funerals. Rudy "The Rug" Nersessian would have enjoyed the one his pals threw for him.
One recent, warm Saturday morning, the DeVol Funeral Home on Wisconsin Avenue reverberated with the sounds of jazz musicians Steve Jordan, Bertell Knox, Elsworth Ginson and Van Perry as they saluted their friend with such numbers as "After You've Gone" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" and sent him to the Prospect Hill Cemetery with "When the Saints Go Marching In."
"The Rug" loved classical jazz, and he could identify virtually every sideman who ever played a note.
"The Old Man," as Rudy called himself the past 20 years, was only 56, although he had lived at least 100 years. He was the proprietor of a rug-cleaning and repair establishment, but always said he loathed the "rug game."
He was fond of the sauce, and a jug of his beloved Cutty was laid to rest at his side.
Cases of beer filled the crowded room, as did representatives from most saloons in town where "The Rug" had leaned on his elbow for 38 years and ordered "Cutty neat."
His world revolved largely around sports. As Corky Devlin, former George Washington University basketball star, said in his eulogy, "We have lost baseball's finest statistician and football's all-time worst handicapper." l
Baseball was his true love along with jazz, and football was close behind. He coud cite batting averages back through the '20s and had two rooms full of back issues of "The Sporting News."
But he liked to wager large amounts of money on obscure college games, betting heavy favorites and laying the point spread. His non-winning was legendary.
An expert at poker, he would sit for long hours winning more than he lost and was a true artist at pinochle.
"The Rug" talked politics, too. He was so fanatically right-wing that he once referred to Barry Goldwater as a "pinko."
He talked tough -- but it was just talk.
"'The Rug' was a true survivor who didn't survive his last crisis," a friend said. "You could see him fading a couple of weeks before the end. He never really recovered from heart failure two years before."
He was overweight, a long way from the days when he was a slender first baseman. A veteran of Gaudlcanal, he still suffered from the effects of malaria right to the end.
Soap and water were items that were strange to Rudy's environment. Once he asked a friend what he was getting him for Christmas. The friend replied, "A case of Raid."
"The Rug's" eating habits were also legendary. Like the day he went into a deli, ordered four ham sandwiches to go, carried them into the bar and requested a side order of bread and butter.
Money was a stranger to Rudy, but a few years ago when his mother died, he immediately sold the house at 22nd and P streets NW.
He walked away with $44,000 and headed for Florida.
A year later he was back, borrowing $5 from a friend until that nonexistent payday.
"What in the hell did you do with the 44 grand?" someone asked him.
With a grin "The Rug" said, "Ninety percent of it went for booze and broads, the rest I spent foolishly."
He was the bane of tidy housewives, the delight of bartenders and the ultimate patriot who kept secret the fact that he spoke fluent Russian.
As a friend said at the bier, "His library consisted of 5,000 dogeared paperbacks and he never read a good book -- he was a walking encyclopedia of sex, crime, sports and scandal; he was fast with a dollar and never, ever looked back."
It was while "The Saints" was being played that a man walked to the casket and removed "The Rug's" tie saying, "You never wore a tie in your life, you b------, and you're not starting now."
And so "The Rug" went out in a style befitting his memory. The places he moved in through Washington are noticeably emptier these days.