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July 2000

The Many Lives of
Warren T. Colville

by Maria Scrivani

At the ripe age of 55, Warren T. Colville seems to have already lived several lifetimes, with much more apparently to come. Possessed of sleek appearance and a feline energy, the executive vice president of The Buffalo News presides over the administrative operations of a major metropolitan daily newspaper at the start of a new century. With mature style and youthful enthusiasm he works out of the fifth-floor penthouse suite in a wood-panelled office designed for, but never inhabited by, the paper’s late matriarch Mrs. Edward Butler.

“When I took over as executive vice president in 1998 they offered me the publisher’s office that had belonged to Henry Urban, but I asked for this instead,” recalls Colville. “Mrs. Butler never used it. It was full of old furniture—but it had two bathrooms, a full bar and a private terrace—the whole shot. So I moved in.” The spacious suite is sparsely furnished and tastefully appointed with a few pieces of art and a sumptuous oriental rug. It takes a big ego to fill it and while Colville clearly fits that bill he also manages to charm and disarm— with the traits of his small-town upbringing: a genial nature and hard-work ethic.

He was born in Mt. Kisco, New York, “an Army brat” who was the first child of 12. His dad, serving with the Army-Air Corps in Saipan during World War II, didn’t get to see his firstborn until Warren was 18 months old. In the ensuing years the growing family lived in Virginia, Maryland, Germany and then New Jersey. “My father also served in Korea and did three tours of duty in Vietnam,” Colville recalls with pride.

“The three most important things in his life were his family, his country and his religion—he was a convert to Catholicism. At the time of his death my father was a full-bird colonel—he’d turned down a generalship, because it would have meant moving to Alaska and he didn’t want to do any more moving by then. At the end of their lives my parents were living in Virginia and my dad was retired from the Pentagon, where he had been in charge of all audio-visual and photographic operations for the U.S. Army. When he died at age 66 eight years ago he was given a full-military funeral with a 21-gun salute and buried next to General Sherman in Arlington National Cemetery. My mom, who followed him in death within six months, is buried next to him.”

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Warren Colville in Saipan looking at a picture of his wife Mary and son Warren (whom he would not see in person until he was 18 months old) - 1944.

Warren and Mary Colville with son Warren - 1947.

Colville recalls an idyllic early childhood when he and his mother lived with her parents in a small town while his father was overseas. From a tender age he proved his business mettle, collecting rags and metal scraps to sell at a local junkyard. “I was always doing something to make money.” He also developed what has become a lifelong love of fishing: “My dog Mickey and I would go fishing at a nearby pond.” That ended in a tragedy he recalls in detail: “I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. I can still see the corner of the street...To this day I don’t like Irish setters. A big one was chasing my spaniel when Mickey ran into the street. He was hit by a car and died right in front of me.”

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Baby picture of Warren - 1944.

Warren at age 4 - Bedford Hills, New York.

Mostly, though, he has happy memories of his boyhood. His seven brothers and four sisters live in the eastern U.S.—one brother and two sisters are in Geneseo, another brother is in South Carolina and the rest are in Virginia. “My youngest brother is three years older than my oldest son,” says Colville. His siblings have children of their own and while time and geography have caused the family ties to loosen, Colville and some of his sisters are trying to strengthen those bonds via the internet.

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Learning how to defend himself - 1955.

“A good day of fishing” - Bedford Hills, New York (Warren on left) - 1954.

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Warren in Middletown, New Jersey - another day of fishing - 1966.

Warren Colville is the father of seven children from what he refers to as three different families. The eldest child, Warren Jr., is the new business manager in advertising for The Buffalo News. His daughter Caryn runs a dental office in New Jersey. Though childless, she and her husband have been foster parents for years. They have also provided a home for a number of stray animals. The third child of Colville’s first marriage, James Thomas, known as J.T., survived a bout with cancer as a teenager. Today he’s a successful businessman, managing a car dealership in New Jersey.

Colville’s second family includes son Danny, 16, who lives with his dad and attends Orchard Park High School. Alexandre, 13, lives with his mom in Florida.

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Warren with all seven children:
Caryn, 33; Daniel, 16; Warren, 35; James, 32; Waverly, 4; Porscha, 2; Alexandre, 13.
This photo was taken at Warren’s son’s wedding - June, 1999.

Though he once vowed never to marry again and certainly thought he wouldn’t be fathering any more children, Warren Colville’s life once again veered down a different path. In l987 he joined The Buffalo News as vice president of advertising. Following a successful career as advertising director of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Colville had signed on with the Sarasota Herald Tribune owned by the New York Times. But after six months there Colville realized “it was the biggest mistake of my life” and jumped at the chance to move to the Northeast again when the Buffalo offer was made.

Here he met Karen, who became his third wife. She wanted children and he agreed to look into adoption. They connected with some people who were adopting Chinese children and, after much soul-searching and complicated arrangements, flew to China for a “fabulous 18 days,” returning home with a lovely daughter they named Waverly Tan. That was in 1996. Now four, Waverly is a model for Fisher-Price Toys. She is big sister to Porscha (Colville’s concession to Karen’s choice of the name Portia, for the Shakespearean heroine—he always wanted a Porsche automobile, and now he loves to say, “I’ve got my Porscha.”). The Colvilles’ second daughter is also Chinese, and she turned two this winter.

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Warren and his wife Karen outside Tianamen Square, Bejing, China, the day before they got their new daughter, Porscha Ting - December, 1998.

Waverly Tan and Porscha Ting - Christmas, 1999.

“I mean it, this is the end,” says Colville, proudly displaying a photograph of his attractive family. He says adopting two girls from China and living again with two preschoolers “has given me another perspective on the world, and life in general.” They call him Papa and clearly, especially the youngest who’s really daddy’s girl, are the joy of his life.

Though he still works long hours Colville limits his evening commitments, preferring to spend that time with his wife, daughters and son Danny. “I admit it’s a juggling act,” he says. “I start very early, usually getting in to my office around 6:30 or 7 a.m. I’m usually home by 5:30.” Of course, like all high-powered executives, fathers or no, he’s always got the phone and computer handy. It’s Karen who sees that he doesn’t abuse the privilege of modern technology.

When they can manage—if Karen’s parents can stay with the girls for a few days—the couple takes some travel time alone, something they did much more often before they started a family.

Though many his age are contemplating retirement and seeking out more leisure time, Colville is cut of different cloth. “In my life today there’s very little time for myself,” he says, without a trace of regret. “I’ll play golf once in a while, but that’s just for work. Mostly when I have time, I want it for my kids. Danny and I fish. Of course we go to hockey and football games to Shea’s, but mostly we’re at home. Karen and I like to spend time with a few close friends—we have a great place.”

He’s also a photographer (like his dad), a collector of fine wines and a gardener. “I have a hosta garden with 80 or 90 varieties. I find that very relaxing.” That may sound like someone who’s slowing down, but that wouldn’t exactly be Warren Colville’s style. It’s just another dimension of a jam-packed life led by the man who’s helping lead The Buffalo News into the 21st century.

Maria Scrivani is a freelance writer.


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