Beloved bicyclist Paul ‘Droop’ Babin remembered for simple lifestyle
Some time in the 1980s, Tresha Melancon and her then-husband Darryl went to New Orleans with friends for a ZZ Top concert.
As they made their way across south Louisiana’s swampy terrain, they spotted Paul “Droop” Babin coasting along the highway on his bicycle.
Turned out, Babin was headed to the Crescent City for the concert as well. The group tossed the bike into the bed of their truck, and asked him to hop inside.
“They made sure he got there and back home safely, and had a good time with him,” Melancon said. “Kindness goes a long way. He was so appreciative.”
Through the years, “Droop” sightings have been common for drivers throughout the Ascension Parish area and beyond. The folklore surrounding Babin’s bike rides earned him local celebrity status.
An outpouring of support was evident online last week when word spread about Babin’s passing Sept. 16. He was 67.
In lieu of flowers, family and friends have asked to consider a memorial donation to defray his funeral expenses. A campaign through ilof.com received many donations, totaling about $5,000 by Sunday. Several were from anonymous donors.
A service honoring his life will be held at The Church International in St. Amant at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 24. Visitation begins at 9 a.m. A plan to live-stream the service is in the works as well. He will be buried in Cornerview Cemetery.
Last week, many shared stories of Babin traveling long distances by bike. Often, he would make far trips in support of local high school sports teams.
Wendell Wilkinson recalled 2003 when St. Amant’s baseball team played in the state tournament in West Monroe. When he spotted Babin standing next to his bike, he asked if someone gave him a ride or if he made the trip on his bike.
“Droop said he rode his bike up. That, my friend, is a dedicated fan,” Wilkinson said.
Erika Da’Lee Hicks said the parish won’t be the same without Droop sightings.
“Simple man living a simple life. He had no idea how many people admired him for that,” she said.
Peter Signorelli remembered seeing Babin on the way to church. He would spot him at the corner of Hwy. 44 and Hwy. 933.
“Just soaking it in. No worries in the world,” Signorelli said.
Misty McCrory Walls said Babin would attend all St. Amant High School home football games.
“I have never known Droop to ask for a single thing. He kept to himself and was extremely thankful and grateful for anything anyone did for him and his family,” she said.
So many people encountered Babin over the years that a Facebook community blossomed to more than 10,000 followers. The page, created by Mark Taylor, dates back to late 2009.
Back in September 2016, Taylor kept followers updated through the Facebook page after Babin was struck accidentally by a car.
As Taylor said in a 2017 podcast episode of Ascension Parish Coffee Talk with Kristina Smallhorn, Babin never asked for anything. But when he was in need, members of the community always provided support.
In recent years, volunteers have stepped up to donate or offer a repair when his bikes were stolen or damaged.
At one point, Gilla Brewing Company in Gonzales sold an IPA beer inspired by Babin. They donated a portion of the sales proceeds.
After his passing, area cyclists planned a memorial bike ride through the same parish roads Babin would frequent. Heavy rain Saturday pushed back the date.
“Droop was more than just a man who rode a bike around town,” Taylor said over the weekend. “He was something of a mascot for our community.”
Though Babin lacked comforts and worldly possessions, he was a kind and generous man who always had a smile on his face, Taylor added.
“He was tough, resilient, and never afraid to wave, do a little dance, and let out a ‘Yeah, you right!’ His presence will be missed by all in our community who enjoyed the surprise of seeing where they would spot him next,” Taylor said.
“So as he rides off into the sunset and on to his next adventure, I hope that Droop’s memory will inspire us all to be kind, show gratitude, love others, count blessings, take pause, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.”