Since Carole Lombard's birthplace home in Fort Wayne, Indiana became a bed and breakfast some years ago, it's hosted all sorts of guests. But it's safe to say that none were more special than Zia, a charming boy who was all of five years old at the time of his visit.
Zia Urrahman, a boy living in northern Afghanistan, was badly burned in a propane tank explosion in late 2004 that killed other members of his family. His father took him to a U.S. military installation, where it was recognized that Zia would need treatment unavailable in his home country.
An Indiana-based National Guard regiment stationed at the installation made arrangements for the boy to be transported to Indiana for specialized care. St. Joseph Hospital of Fort Wayne agreed to provide treatment at no cost, and the Northeast Indiana Burn Council raised nearly $19,000 to pay for expenses.
Zia, his father and an interpreter arrived in June 2005. The child underwent a pair of surgeries at St. Joseph and then spent several weeks recuperating, visiting the zoo and many other Fort Wayne attractions.
One of the places he stayed was at the Lombard house, which also hosted a lunch given by Fort Wayne's Afghan community for the child, his father and the interpreter.
Zia spent much time at the house, calling his mother in Afghanistan or sometimes just taking a nap.
During her lifetime, Carole contributed and helped raise money for refugees and other victims of war. One is certain she would be delighted to learn that her house, and hometown, helped a little boy's road to recovery.