The Path to Forgiveness
by Matt Hughes
THE 19TH-CENTURY FARM where Walter and Nancy Bellmeyer Everett ’58, P’83 live is close enough to the Lewisburg federal penitentiary that they can hear the guards calling prisoner numbers across their corn and soybean fields.

They don’t like the practice, Nancy says, because it strips those incarcerated of their names and individuality, but it offers a reminder “that there are people there that need me.”

The Everetts are adamant that “Everybody in prison is a human being and has a story,” according to Nancy. For decades, the couple have made it their life’s work to hear those stories and to be the inmates’ voices outside the prison walls.

Through volunteer visitation programs like the Pennsylvania Prison Society, Walter, a retired Methodist pastor, and Nancy, a retired juvenile prison counselor, make regular visits to nearby prisons and exchange correspondence with incarcerated individuals across the country. They’re also advocates against the death penalty who led a successful campaign to abolish the punishment in Rhode Island.

“A lot of people say I could never visit somebody in prison, to which I say, it’s not hard,” Walter says. “All you have to do is actively listen. They need somebody who cares enough to listen.”

It’s work they embarked on after their lives were touched by the criminal justice system in the most intimate way.

Walter and Nancy Bellmeyer starying
Photo: Dustin Fenstermacher
Walter and Nancy Bellmeyer Everett ’83, P’85 met through a bereavement group.
“I went home and said, I can’t live with that anger for the next 14 or 20 years, or for the rest of my life.”
Walter Everett
In 1987, before he married Nancy, Walter’s son Scott was murdered by Michael Carlucci, a stranger who was high on drugs at the time. Walter was furious when his son’s killer pled to a lesser manslaughter charge for a sentence of just five years, but a support group meeting soon led him to an epiphany after he heard a woman whose son was killed 14 years earlier express a rage as raw as his own.

“I went home and said, I can’t live with that anger for the next 14 or 20 years, or for the rest of my life,” he recalls.

After hearing Carlucci express remorse at his sentencing, about a year after Scott’s death, Everett decided to write him a letter. It led to him visiting Carlucci in prison, and gradually Walter began to see a change in Carlucci that opened a path to forgiveness. Everett would eventually speak on his behalf at his parole hearing, and the now-released Carlucci, today a trucking company manager, still works with Everett on incarceration issues.