Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mafia Patriarch Buried In Casket Of Pale Gold

To the strains of soaring organ music, the pale gold casket of Nicolo Rizzuto, described as Montreal's last Godfather, was slowly wheeled up the main aisle to the altar of Little Italy's Madonna della Difesa Church.
Behind it: Libertina, the sombre widow of the 86-year-old patriarch of the legendary Montreal family, as well as his daughter, Maria, and other relatives.
Outside, curious passersby, reporters and photographers lined Dante St. several deep to catch glimpses of the Rizzuto family and their entourage, six of whom have been killed or kidnapped over the last 15 months in a bloodbath that continues to baffle Montreal police.
Inside the church, once at the heart of Montreal's Italian community and still considered its soul, several men wearing earpieces stood at the doors and patrolled the church's perimeter.
Minutes before the casket arrived, an altercation erupted near the back of the church. Six burly men told writer James Dubro, author of books about the Mafia, to leave.
"Nobody's going to hurt you," one of the men told Dubro.
He resisted, saying he was there to pay his respects.
After an increasingly loud exchange that turned many heads, Dubro left before the funeral started.
Also known as Notre Dame de la Defense, the church, which can seat about 800, was packed, with dozens of people, mainly men, standing along the sides and back. Family members sat together at the front of the church, where Rizzuto's casket rested, draped with an arrangement of white flowers.
There was no eulogy or scripture readings by family members during the traditional Catholic funeral.
In a 75-minute service, delivered entirely in Italian, Rev. Igino Incantalupo expressed his condolences to the family. But little else was said about Rizzuto, who was shot dead through his kitchen window last week.
A choir and a trumpet soloist performed Ave Maria, as donations to the church were collected from mourners. The collection baskets were brimming with $10 and $20 bills, including some U.S. bills.
Inaugurated in 1919, Madonna della Difesa began as a sanctuary for Italian immigrants. Montreal's Italians have since dispersed but the church, with its elaborate frescoes, elegant marble altar and stained-glass windows, keeps them coming back to the old neighbourhood.
Yesterday's funeral was eerily similar to one held there in January.
Nicolo Rizzuto, at the time on probation for offences related to participating in a criminal organization, escorted his grandson Nick Jr.'s pale gold casket into the church days after his namesake was shot and killed in Notre Dame de Grace. Some Italian newspapers reported Nick Jr.'s coffin was made of solid gold.
Yesterday, in an announcement at the end of Nicolo Rizzuto's funeral, a man thanked those who had come to pay their last respects, but asked that only family accompany the casket to the cemetery. The family, he said, wanted an intimate setting for the burial.
As the casket was wheeled out, sunlight streamed through a row of windows, illuminating the way down the aisle. Several women leaned from their pews to touch the casket; others waved goodbye or did the sign of the cross.
As the crowd followed, moving toward the church's main Dante St. exit, some mourners asked security guards if there was another way out.
They were pointed toward the Henri Julien Ave. door, which they could use to avoid the waiting army of reporters and photographers.



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