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Obituary: Richard Rust / Popular musician and Web site designer

Thursday, January 15, 2004

By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A keyboard player in bands as diverse as the Nixon Clocks, the Dharma Sons and the Breakup Society, Richard Rust was not only a tireless musician on the Pittsburgh scene, but one who was much in demand.

He was also in demand at home, where he was the father of a 2-year-old girl, Madison Rose Rust, and husband to Deni, who is expecting a baby boy in May.

The extent of Mr. Rust's love for his family and musical life was well documented at richrust.com, a Web site he maintained with information on all of his bands and a detailed journal of his experiences.

A typical entry was: "Madison slept in her bed the other night and she actually went in all by herself, laid down and took a nap. Amazing ... She knows her basic colors now, too. Although she insists that 'red' is actually 'Elmo. ' "

Mr. Rust, of Cranberry, died Tuesday of cancer. He was 32.

He chronicled his two-year battle with cancer in entries with humorous headings such as "It's Not Easy Being Green."

On Dec. 9 he posted a news item, "Deni felt the baby move for the first time today." On Dec. 22, after a run of stomach flu-like symptoms, he posted, "Well, I've had enough. I'm going to the ER."

Mr. Rust grew up in Economy and graduated from Ambridge High School before attending the University of Pittsburgh. His proficiency with computers would lead to jobs like the one as a technician at RealPittsburgh.com.

While at Pitt, he also joined his first rock band, The Distractions.

"He was a very natural musician with an excellent voice," said John Goberish of the Distractions. "But I really enjoyed the camaraderie with him. We could sit down together and, guaranteed, we would come up with a good song. That's something really special."

Mr. Rust played with the Distractions for two years before joining the Nixon Clocks, a keyboard-driven dance group that became the Thursday night house band at Nick's Fat City. Mr. Rust could also be found performing with a latter-day version of longtime Pittsburgh new wave band, the Affordable Floors.

When the Nixon Clocks disbanded around 1998, Mr. Rust joined a fourth popular Pittsburgh band, the Dharma Sons, and stayed with them until 2001, when he moved to San Francisco with Deni to take a job at bayinsider.com.

"He was equally left brain and right brain," said Steve Hansen, a close friend and KDKA radio executive, "because he was a musician and the other side was this amazing Web site creator. He was the deep inside technical support guy. When everyone else threw their hands up, they would call Rich."

While in California, Mr. Rust was diagnosed with melanoma and underwent an operation there not long before he and Deni, a couple since 1993, were married in Las Vegas in June 2001.

"All these things happened at once for him," Hansen said, "and he handled it with humor and grace."

Upon returning to Pittsburgh last spring, Mr. Rust took a job as an information liaison for 3 Rivers Connect, a local nonprofit that specializes in computer technology. Musically, he started writing songs again with Goberish and also joined the Breakup Society.

"I could always count on Rich to make me laugh on stage or at rehearsal," said Breakup Society band leader Ed Masley, pop music critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"He had such an odd, at times absurdist, sense of humor. He was also a brilliant musician."

Mr. Rust's condition took a turn for the worse during the Christmas season and deteriorated rapidly, but, Deni said, "He was always very brave and had a lot of hope." She said that during an ultrasound to diagnose the spread of the cancer, the doctor agreed to use the equipment to show them the unborn baby, who they talked about naming Ethan.

In their final moment together, she said, he said to her, "I think I'm already dead. I love you so much. I love you and I love Madison and I love Ethan."

Besides his wife and daughter, Mr. Rust is also survived by his parents, Elaine and John Rust; and a brother Matthew, all of Economy.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today and tomorrow in Devlin Funeral Home, Cranberry. Services will be at 10:15 a.m. Saturday.


Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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