About Us

Bill Colonna


Instilled Pride and a Passion for Quality in Generations of Workers

NORFOLK, VA – Colonna’s Shipyard Inc., (CSI), announced today that longtime company chairman, Willoughby Warren “Bill” Colonna, Jr., grandson of the company’s founder, has passed away.  The cause of death was not disclosed.  He was 94.  

In making the announcement first to Colonna’s employees, Randall Crutchfield, Vice Chairman & Chief Operating Officer said, “It is with deep sadness for our company and the collective Colonna family, across all divisions and locations, that we confirm the passing of Willoughby Warren “Bill” Colonna, Jr.  He greatly influenced our company and our industry.  It is certainly the end of an era.”

As the third-generation owner of the legendary ship repair enterprise in Hampton Roads, Bill Colonna, (1929-2023), was the fifth president of the shipyard started by his grandfather, Charles J. Colonna, in 1875.  He purchased the company in 1977 and led it until 1993, during which time the shipyard began competing for more government contracts, eventually quadrupling the workforce, and increasing revenues significantly. 

In 1993, he transitioned day-to-day operations to Tom Godfrey, the first non-family member to serve in that position. “Mr. C” as he was known to many, continued to serve as Chairman of the Board until his death.  Until very recently, Mr. Colonna maintained regular business hours five days a week and served in an advisory role in the company at its Indian River Road headquarters. 

“Bill Colonna was very thoughtful about his people and his company.  He fostered an environment and established incentives to ensure his senior management team will remain in place and lead the organization as he would have for many years,” Crutchfield stated. “He concerned himself as much with the future as he prided himself with his past.”    

While daily operations will continue with the present management team, Mr. Colonna’s role as company chairman will be passed to his grandson, Randall Crutchfield, who has served on the company board since 2011 and is currently slated to replace Godfrey as CEO in January 2024. 

“The focus of our company won’t change.  We will continue to operate in the manner and tradition that epitomized our shipyard under Mr. Colonna’s tenure,” Crutchfield said. “We’ll continue to advance our industry leadership position he helped build and will zealously guard the solid reputation he helped create among customers and vendors.”

Willoughby Warren “Bill” Colonna, Jr.
Biography Dates and Facts:

  • Born February 1, 1929 in Norfolk, the only son of Esther Pearl Daughtry Colonna and Willoughby Warren “Capt. Will” Colonna, Sr. 
  • Attended Maury High School but spent his senior year at Portlock High School, graduating in 1947.  Later attended the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary (now Old Dominion University) and the Newport News Shipyard Apprentice School, each for one year.
  • Served in the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Va.
  • Was widely known in his youth for prowess in waterskiing, weightlifting and bodybuilding, winning various local and state championships in each.  At age 17, he earned a private pilot’s license for single-engine and seaplane equipment.
  • Represents the ninth generation of the Colonna family in Virginia.  His first and middle names are homage to prominent names from Norfolk’s origins – the Willoughby and Warren families – and he was proud of his connection to both.
  • Shipyard employment began with salvaging scrap metals at the yard during school vacations from 1943 to 1946.  His first year on the company payroll was in 1945.
  • Upon becoming a full-time employee, he performed a rotation through most of the shipyard’s various trades familiarizing himself with the different phases of operation.  He continued to rise higher in the company through supervisory roles of increasing responsibility.    
  • Charles J. Colonna, Capt. Will’s father, founded the shipyard in 1875.  Just over one hundred years later (1977), Bill Colonna, Jr. purchased the shipyard and succeeded his cousin, Benjamin Okeson Colonna, Jr., as president and CEO.

148 Years/Leadership of Colonna’s Shipyard

Charles J. Colonna, founder, president and CEO – 1875-1907

  • Shipwright, Spar Maker and Caulker
  • Colonna’s Marine Railway/s
  • Colonna’s Dry-Dock and Shipbuilding Co.
  • Colonna Marine Railway, Corporation

Willoughby Warren “Capt. Will” Colonna, Sr., president and CEO – 1907-1954

  • Colonna Marine Railway, Corporation
  • Colonna’s Shipyard, Inc.

Benjamin Okeson Colonna, Sr., president and CEO – 1954-1968

  • Colonna’s Shipyard, Inc.

Benjamin Okeson Colonna, Jr., president and CEO – 1968-1977

  • Colonna’s Shipyard, Inc.

Willoughby Warren “Bill” Colonna, Jr., president and CEO – 1977-1993

  • Colonna’s Shipyard, Inc.


Thomas Walter Godfrey, Jr., president & CEO – 1993 to present

  • Colonna’s Shipyard, Inc.