Beverly Carroll

Beverly Carroll was a good friend. She died on August 12, 2014 after a long bout with cancer. A regular riot, she would turn almost any conversation with anyone into a discussion of the reasons that everyone should use the Linux operating system, preferably the Ubuntu distributions. “None of he update every week stuff to fix things that shouldn’t need fixing. Security a mess, people being spammed, their information stolen, and their machines conscripted to criminal bot nets to spread the misery around the world. If they’d designed it right in the first place, like the developer, Linus Torvalds, did with Linux, we wouldn’t have these problems.”

People would stare at her uncomprehendingly, wondering what on earth she was talking about. But she was such a kindly old soul that people would simply smile an nod their heads and say things like “That’s just so true!”

I met Beverly back in the late eighties. I was acquainted with a guy who was part of Spokane’s nerd squad. We were the people who were at the forefront of computers and hung around in a loose mixture of school and business environments. This guy had a friend who was having a having a hard time getting her Windows network to link up to the three computers in her house and asked me to help. I agreed and met the enterprising lady. At the time, Bev was hosting a halfway house for convicted murderers who would be eligible for parole if they had a place to go and would take up both educational and employment pursuits. Beverly would travel to the prisons and interview the men inside. If she had a good feeling about them and the circumstances of their incarceration fit a mitigation pattern, she would then investigate the records of their time served. If they behaved themselves and had the right attitude, Bev would go to bat for them.

I met a few of the men she helped. She moved them into her home and gave them chores to do, set out goals for them to accomplish in a specific period of time, and help them rejoin society. There wasn’t a single hard timer in Washington prisons who had a bad word to say about Beverly. And, if anyone did, they’d find themselves dangerously unpopular. I mean seriously dangerous.

She had a few failures. A couple of her “boys,” as she called them, would heed the beckoning call to do drugs and Bev would sit them down and remind them of the few rules of being in her home and then would revoke her sponsorship and send them back to prison. Not a one of them ever complained or felt interested in revenge. They felt miserable that they’d let her down, and would work harder for parole and a second chance at Beverly’s sponsorship. Since Bev never held a grudge, those who succeeded would find themselves back at Bev’s place to try again. A couple were so institutionalized that they just couldn’t make it and would pull a job and await the police to take them back into the system.  She was quite successful over the twenty or so years she took these men on, helping many to have useful lives and leave the prison world behind. She was quite something.

One of her charges became a friend of mine. He was a fantastic artist and I helped him by building a web page to sell his works. He died of cancer after eight years of freedom, but he died free and with self respect and pride in his artistic accomplishments. He’d done 17 years straight time before he was eligible for parole. All those years before, he lived in a tiny apartment with his girlfriend. A downstairs neighbor was playing his radio especially loud, keeping Buff’s sick girlfriend awake. Witnesses said that Buff, from his nickname ‘Buffalo’ because his south western art often depicted them, wend down and knocked on the offender’s door. He explained to the drunken racket maker that his girlfriend was ill and could he please turn his music down. Amid a flood of curse words, the drunken noisemaker told Buff to get lost. Buff said nothing and returned to his apartment. A few moments later, enraged that Buff would have the temerity to ask him to quiet down, the noisemaker kicked in Buff’ door and attacked Buff with a baseball bat. Buff snatched up a knife laying on the divider counter between the kitchenette and living room area and told the invader to get out. Regardless of the knife, the invader attacked Buff who defended himself and stabbed the drunken noise maker.  Neighbors who witnessed everything called the police and an ambulance. In spite of the testimony on Buff’s behalf that his actions were in self defense, the court found that Buff started it by initially asking the man to turn down the music, deciding he should have called the police to do it. The court also found that even though he was attacked by a bat, the club was not a lethal weapon where the knife was. The court decided that he’d used undue force in a situation he predicated and convicted him of first degree murder.

Such were the types of cases that Bev took on. These were the types of men who she believed deserved a second chance. While many who knew Beverly were sure that one day one of these men would turn on her. But in all the years that never happened, nor even came close. On the contrary she walked in a state of grace among the prisoners, even those who didn’t know her but knew of her, were vehemently defending of her and respected her highly.

I succeeded in getting Beverly’s computers to communicate and I introduced her to Linux.  We spent hours and hours together, working with her machines and learning more and more about the operating system. These machines played a part in her help to rehabilitate the men she sponsored, giving them a platform to send and receive email and distribute their resumes, which she also helped them write by helping them find their strengths and abilities so they could list them for potential employers.

With all of this going on, every night she took an hour out to listen to online courses in any number of subjects, both for herself and for her charges. She always said that the brain was a muscle and that if you didn’t continually flex it and challenge it, it would atrophy like any other muscle.

Beverly Carroll was an amazing lady. When her health made her give up her halfway housing at the age of 82, the roles reversed and the men she’d helped to find their lives kept watch over her, making sure that anything that needed doing was done.

We all knew that she wasn’t feeling up to par for the last couple of years. She’d lost weight and had become more frail. She waved away any worried comments and say “I’m just getting old, silly!” Only at her death did we find that she’d been battling cancer, and the kind of person she was, she didn’t want anyone to worry over her. We found that she was hiding her pain by taking  high dose morphine. Only her physician knew how sick she really was.

So it’s time for me to say goodbye, Beverly. I loved you like a sister and I will miss you. You were a large part of my life and nothing will ever fill that now empty space. Sweet dreams, honey, it’s your turn to rest.