Watch CBS News

Two families who built friendship over a baby's name meet again: "Strangers can become family"

Two families come together over baby name
"How Are You Now?" Two Louisiana families build friendship after baby name brings them together 07:09

When baby Kingston entered the world in Lafayette, Louisiana, his parents, Connie Despanie and Benjamin Hall, didn't have a middle name to give him. Minutes after he was born, the idea for a middle name came in the form of a handwritten letter they received from a stranger at the hospital.

That stranger, Jamie Fontenot, wrote the letter shortly after her father died in the same hospital that day. The baby's parents were so moved by the letter that they named him Kingston James Hall — after Fontenot's father, 86-year-old James Lee Grimmett.

That was four years ago. 

As CBS News' lead national correspondent David Begnaud reported at the time, the letter created a special bond between the two families, who came together and remain friends to this day.

As part of a weeklong "CBS Mornings" series launching Monday, Begnaud went back to Lafayette to catch up with the two families, including Kingston, who is now 4 years old and just started pre-K. Throughout this week, Begnaud will be checking in with people he's introduced us to over the past few years, with the goal of answering one simple question: "How are you now?"

Fontenot's connection with Kingston's parents started when hospital staff received her letter on Jan. 12, 2018. 

"To my dad's angel, even though I will never know your name, you are the first child born here after my dad's passing. When one life is taken, another is given. Please keep my dad in your prayers," the letter reads.

Fontenot was inspired to write the letter after hearing music playing on the hospital's PA system. It's a lullaby that plays throughout the hospital when a newborn has just arrived.

Kingston's birth at 10:40 a.m. — just minutes after the death of Fontenot's father — seemed more than coincidental. 

"Somebody said, 'Well then, that's dad's angel,'" she told Begnaud in a 2018 interview.

Dr. Jennifer Pugliese and nurse Cydney Begnaud, who assisted with Connie Despanie's labor and delivery, received Fontenot's letter, and Pugliese gave it to the new mom.

"She started reading it silently and she just had tears streaming down her face. It was really beautiful," Pugliese said at the time.

"I came in and then the dad says, 'Oh, we found our middle name!' And I'm like, 'All right, what is it?' And he says, 'Well, it's James, of course!'" Cydney Begnaud said. The nurse is David Begnaud's mother and the one who tipped CBS News off to the story.

Cydney Begnaud also helped arrange for Fontenot to meet the family, an emotional moment captured by CBS News.

Four years later, the two families got together for the first time since the start of the pandemic — and CBS News was there again to witness their reunion.

Fontenot said she has been following every milestone with Kingston, even putting together a special picture book for his baptism.

"I wanted something sort of set in stone that he could have through the years, that he could look back at when he was born," she said.

And Kingston is proud of his name.

"He loves to say his name," Despanie said. "He'll tell you, 'I'm Kingston James Hall...' I can't even describe it because he's here and on top of that he was blessed with an angel as well coming into the world."

Asked what they hope the story does for other people, the two women had a similar message.

"That good things still happen, that strangers can become family," Fontenot said.

"Like everybody can come on one accord and love one another unconditionally without even knowing each other," Despanie said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.