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Vyola Willson, 83

Accomplished Journalist, Mentor, and Volunteer

(December 22, 1937 - March 7, 2021)

Vyola Willson

Vyola (Papps) Willson died peacefully at home from complications of a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia.


She was one of the first reporters for Bloomsberg News and an award winning investigative reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer.


She was a wonderful wife, mother of two children, Ernest and Nicole, and a beloved grandmother.


Vyola was born in Boston, MA, the daughter of Nicholas and Helen (Stratos) Papps. She was a first generation American who graduated from Girls Latin School (Boston) and cum laude from Radcliffe College (Harvard). She also earned an MBA from the University of Connecticut. She was raised in West Roxbury, MA and lived in Avon, CT, Exton, PA, and Belle Mead.


She will be deeply missed by her husband, Ernest J Willson of Belle Mead; son Ernest N Willson and his wife Amy (Sweigart) Willson of Bechtelsville, PA; daughter Nicole Willson Vyain and her husband Chris Vyain of Milwaukie OR; and three grandchildren: Nicholas, Jack, and Emily Willson of Bechtelsville, PA.


She is also survived by her sister, Grayce Papps (West Roxbury, MA); brother George Papps (Dedham, MA); and four sisters-in-law, Mary Ellen Chadbourne (Harmony, ME), Susan Newsheller (Ocala, FL), Elaine Williams (Troutman, NC), and Barbara Newsheller (Farmington, CT).


Vyola was a member of Montgomery United Methodist Church in Belle Mead for the last 20 years, where she was a former chairwoman of the staff/parish relationship committee and financial secretary.


Vyola also was an integral part of Princeton University’s Friends of the Davis International Center Host Family Program, a volunteer organization that supports international students attending the university.

And, during her husband’s US Army tour of duty in Asmara Ethiopia (now Eritrea), she taught English at Asmara University. She was a founder of the YWCA of Ethiopia.


During her long and illustrious career she worked as a writer at John Hancock Life Insurance Co., an editor at the Hartford Times, a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer and financial editor/Instructor at Bloomberg News. She was an investigative reporter with the highest standards of journalistic integrity. She was the first female business editor of a major US newspaper; the Hartford Times.


At Bloomberg News, where she was one of the first employees, she went on to teach the core principles of business journalism and the “Bloomberg Way” to many reporters and editors in the so-called “Boot Camp” training. Vyola was greatly respected for her skills as a mentor and academic, her determination to maintain the highest bar of journalistic ethics and beloved for her patience and persistence. She retired from Bloomberg in 2014.


She considered the major news story about the savings and loan scandal "How Big Borrowers Walked Away" her greatest piece of investigative reporting. The story ran as front page news in the Philadelphia Inquirer in January 1991. The expose (nine full pages) ran for three days. She and Pam Belluck co-authored this story, for which they received a prestigious Keystone Press Award in 1992.


The family wishes to thank Somerset County Visiting Nurse Association for hospice support during the latter part of her illness. Special thanks are due to her medical aide DolRose Ogina for her compassionate care during her last two years.


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