MONTREAL - The old Mafia don will be reunited in death with so many of the rivals he supplanted in life.

Nicolo Rizzuto's funeral will be held Monday in the same iconic church as the brothers he brushed aside, 30 years ago, in his rise to the top of Canada's underworld.

The last of the three Violi brothers was brought down, back then, by the same unconventional murder method someone used to kill Rizzuto: with a marksman's bullet shot into his dining area.

One dynasty after another appears to have ended the same way. Now their passing will be mourned in the same place _ at Notre-Dame-de-la-Defense Church.

Service held in Little Italy

The Romanesque-styled church in Montreal's Little Italy will once again host the macabre pageantry prompted by a Mafia funeral: grieving relatives, protected by a plethora of police, surrounded by a broader circle of curious gawkers.

Just a few months ago, Nicolo Rizzuto waved briefly to onlookers on the sidewalk as they stared at the gold-coloured casket of his grandson Nick.

On Monday, he'll be the one laid to rest.

The man known as the last of the traditional dons _ who started as an enforcer on Sicilian farms and ended as the fedora-wearing oldtimer who pulled strings in the global underworld _ died Wednesday.

Numerous crime experts used the event this week to write a metaphorical obituary for the entire Rizzuto organization.

"He was the last godfather,'' said crime author Antonio Nicaso.

"Nick (Nicolo) was charming and tough but at the same time he was a campiere. . . He was probably the last one of that generation _ a generation raised around rural Sicily.''

But the biggest, most powerful member of the Rizzuto family remains alive.

Vito Rizzuto, the reputed head of the Montreal Mafia, is serving a 10-year sentence in the United States for racketeering, related to three underworld murders in Brooklyn in 1981.

Son to miss funeral

It's expected that, on Monday, he won't be at his father's funeral _ which would be the second one he's missed this year for a close family member.

He didn't make it to his son Nick's last January. Now, U.S. authorities won't confirm if the 64-year-old has asked for permission to attend on Monday.

A spokesman for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons said a process exists that would allow Rizzuto to request to attend a family funeral _ but he warns such requests are "very rarely'' granted.

"If an inmate's security level is such that they would require armed guard, and I can't speak to this case, then it would normally not be granted based on security,'' bureau spokesman Edmond Ross said from Washington, D.C.

"There are number of factors, security being the most important. . . ''It's not common that a request is granted, especially for an inmate that has higher-security concerns."

Any costs would have to be paid by the inmate, Ross said. The warden at the medium-security prison in Florence, Colo., would have the final say.

Not attending his son's funeral this year reportedly distressed Vito Rizzuto greatly.

In their new book ''Mafia Inc.'', journalists Andre Cedilot and Andre Noel recount that a devastated Vito Rizzuto considered asking for permission to attend.

But the book says his wife and two surviving children talked him out of making the request at the time, not wanting Vito's presence to create a media storm.

"Vito sounded crushed,'' the authors wrote.

"He thought he might convince the prison bosses to grant him permission to attend his son's funeral, but his loved ones dissuaded him. . .

"They didn't think it was a good idea for to come to Montreal and show up at the church, with a heavy police escort and handcuffed.''

Vito Rizzuto is due to get out of the medium-security prison in 2012.

But the clan he once commanded has been severely crippled.

A Mafia family in decline

His father is dead, his brother-in-law is missing, his eldest son has perished and scores of close associates are behind bars serving lengthy sentences after a 2006 police sweep.

Many others are dead.

There have been countless theories about what might be causing the chaos: revenge for the killings of the Calabrians in the 1970s, an attack by Mafia families from Ontario and New York, an internal revolt from within the Rizzuto clan _ or some combination of the above.

Experts do seem to agree that the clan's influence is likely finished, even with its charismatic leader due to get out of jail in two years.

"This is not a war _ because all the victims are on one side,'' Nicaso said.

The family will receive condolences over the weekend at an east-end funeral home that, coincidentally, they own.

On Monday, they will return to Notre-Dame-de-la-Defense.

The church is famous for the fresco on the ceiling of Benito Mussolini riding a horse. It's a throwback to the era where the fascist dictator made peace between the relatively new Italian state and the Vatican.

Media interest was high for January's funeral but the family had enforcers tossing journalists out.

One burly bald-headed man berated a reporter and, cursing at her, told her to respect the family's right to mourn in private.