Russ Columbo's great niece, Evonne, shared her family memories on this matter with me. Interestingly she described the effort and Carole's role in it in the same way as the early news article did.
"Carole Lombard played a very large role in our family history. Carole would come to my great grandmothers bedside and read letters that were from"Russ", who was "working in Europe". She did this for a very long time after his death. Carole was going to marry my Uncle Russ. The empty tomb beneath Russ' was purchased for her but was never used.
"My great aunt Carmela, one of Russ' sister's, left me a beautiful garnet and gold cross given to my great grandmother by Carole. Carole had it blessed by the Pope. "
Photo by Dave Baze. He wrote: "This cross is passed down through the Columbo family to the oldest female. She is to wear it to the funeral of the one who passed it on to her."
How long did this effort continue? Seven years would pass before Carole herself died. In those intervening years she would have a very high profile romance and marriage to Clark Gable. Her relationship with Russ was never a high profile affair. It was a private matter. If it were not for Larry Swindell and his biography of Lombard it would be virtually unknown.