Daughter’s dress keeps memories alive for Des Allemands woman

Courtney Babin along with her husband and two children.

Through the help of a good friend, Des Allemands’ Courtney Babin found a way to keep her father’s memory alive, and for her children to learn a little bit about him along the way.

Babin’s father Allen Kahoe passed away five years ago. For more than 50 years, he was a charter boat captain in Empire, Louisiana who loved the water.

“His job was never work for him,” Babin recalled. “There were hard times, like with anything else, but it was a joy for him to go fishing every day. It was his life.”

In his closet, Kahoe had a collection of several fishing shirts prior to his passing. Babin retrieved and kept them, and it gave her an idea – so she called her friend Rooney Caldwell, who had the talent to make it come alive.

Allison Babin in dress made from the fishing shirts of her late grandfather, Allen.

Babin and Caldwell taught together at St. Rosalie Schooland the two have known one another for nearly 15 years. Her request? For Caldwell to make a dress out of Kahoe’s shirts for Babin’s 3-year-old daughter Allison.

Caldwell delivered on that. The dress – adorned with tiny fish – perfectly represented Babin’s father and Allison’s grandfather.

“It’s beautiful,” Babin said. “It’s perfect, and we’ll always have it now. She can possibly pass that on to other kids in our family.”

Caldwell has quite a skill for these things. Babin recalled a time Caldwell made a confirmation dress for a fellow St. Rosalie teacher’s daughter, the dress material coming from their mutual friend’s wedding dress.

“I knew she had the talent to figure something out for me, so I went to her,” Babin said.

Caldwell was happy to help. It took about eight hours, she estimated, noting the biggest obstacle she faced was to be precise with the cutting of material. With a scarcity of material to work with, were she to rip it, there might not be enough left to make what was old into a brand new sundress.

Colton and Allison Babin on their grandfather’s boat.

“That was probably the challenge of it. You had to take it apart, but you can’t rip it,” Caldwell said. “It felt good to do something for someone and help out. Those shirts might have just sat there otherwise … she asked if I could do it because she wanted something to remember her dad and knew I’d done something like that before.”

Babin also has a 5-year-old son, Colton, who she hopes to perhaps be able to give a memento along these lines to in the future.

In his own way, though, Colton has long been a reminder of Allen’s life.

“Colton didn’t know him, he was not 1 yet when my dad passed,” Babin said. “But we see him in our son. Colton loves to fish, loves to be on the boat, just like my dad. There’s a special connection there.”

The dress, too, serves as a wonderful memory, bringing to mind Babin’s favorite memories of her father from years ago.

“I have memories of Empire and Port Sulphur before Hurricane Katrina. Things have changed so much,” she said. “But I’ll always have those memories.”


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