When baby Kingston was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, his parents, Connie Despanie and Benjamin Hall, didn’t have a middle name for 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 in the hospital.
This stranger, Jamie Fontenot, wrote the letter shortly after his 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 James Lee Grimmett, 86.
It was four years ago.
As CBS News Senior National Correspondent David Begnaudthe letter created a special bond between the two families, who reunited and remain friends to this day.
As part of a week-long “CBS Mornings” series kicking off Monday, Begnaud returned to Lafayette to catch up with both families, including Kingston, who is now 4 and just started pre-K. Throughout this week, Begnaud will meet people he has introduced to us over the past few years, with the aim of answering a simple question: “How are you now?”
Fontenot’s relationship with Kingston’s parents began when hospital staff received his letter on January 12, 2018.
“To my father’s angel, though I will never know your name, you are the first child born here after my father passed away. When one life is taken, another is given. Please keep my father in your prayers “, we read in the letter.
Fontenot was inspired to write the letter after hearing music playing on the hospital PA system. It’s a lullaby that sounds throughout the hospital when a newborn has just arrived.
Kingston’s birth at 10:40 a.m. – just minutes after Fontenot’s father died – seemed more than a coincidence.
“Someone said, ‘Well, that’s daddy’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 delivered it to the new mom.
“She started reading it silently and she just had tears running down her face. It was really beautiful,” Pugliese said at the time.
“I walked in and then the dad said, ‘Oh, we found our middle name!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, what is it?’ And he goes, ‘Well, it’s James, of course!'” Cydney Begnaud said. The nurse is David Begnaud’s mother and the one who told CBS News about the story.
Cydney Begnaud also helped Fontenot meet the family, a touching moment captured by CBS News.
Four years later, the two families reunited for the first time since the pandemic began — and CBS News was there once again to witness their reunion.
Fontenot said she followed every milestone with Kingston, even creating a special picture book for her christening.
“I wanted something set in stone that he could have over the years, that he could look back on when he was born,” she said.
And Kingston is proud of its name.
“He loves saying his name,” Despanie said. “He’ll say to you, ‘I’m Kingston James Hall…’ I can’t even describe him because he’s here and on top of that he was also lucky enough to have an angel come into the world.”
When asked what they hoped the story would do for other people, both women had a similar message.
“May good things still happen, may strangers become family,” Fontenot said.
“Like everyone can come together and love each other unconditionally without even knowing each other,” Despanie said.