Scattered over the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon course on Sunday will be a dozen runners clad in black T-shirts emblazoned with bright red lips.
The men, women and children dressed in black run or walk in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon each year in memory of Pamela Cleveland Argo, one of the victims of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, even though most never met her.
“Pam,” however, was one of their own. She lived in Oklahoma City but grew up in the small Haskell County town of Stigler in eastern Oklahoma, the same place the runners with the red lips across their chests call home.
“She was the daughter of someone from Stigler,” said Becky Bumpers, 39, who never knew Pam but has run in her memory the past five years at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. “That makes it personal.”
Pam’s parents, Joyce and Billy Cleveland, still live in Stigler and provide each of the participants with the black T-shirts with the bright red lips because Pam loved to wear black clothes and bright red lipstick.
A photo of Pam in a black hat with a tube of red lipstick is what is displayed in her memorial at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
“The black hats and the red lipstick was what she was known by,” Joyce Cleveland said.
Pam could buy clothes in resale shops and then dress in a way that made it seem as if they were the latest in New York City fashion.
“She would want to stand out, be different,” Joyce said. “Her spontaneity and her style were different. It was just her personality.”
The black T-shirts with the big red lips certainly stand out on the marathon course. Joyce and Billy also wear them each year to the marathon.
They drive to different spots along the course during the race to cheer and support the runners from Stigler as much as possible.
They are often asked by spectators at the race about the red lips on the shirt, and it gives them yet another opportunity to tell people about their stylish and flamboyant daughter, whose closet of clothes was organized by color.
Pam didn’t work in the Murrah building like many of the bombing victims. She was visiting the Social Security Administration on the morning of April 19, 1995. She was 36 years old.
She had lived in Oklahoma City most of her life after graduating from Stigler High in 1977, but was always proud of her hometown.
“Every other weekend she would still come to Stigler,” Joyce said. “Stigler was always home to her. I think she would love all of these kids for running in memory of her.”
And would she love the shirts?
“I think she would probably think it was funny,” Joyce said.
The residents of Stigler, however, don’t just run in memory of Pam. They also run to support Billy and Joyce.
“I didn’t know Pam, but we all know the Clevelands,” Bumpers said. “A lot of people here watched them go through all of that and supported them. They are such incredible people in our community and we all love them.”
Each year, Billy and Joyce try and meet with the runners from Stigler before or after the race for a group photo, oftentimes at Pam’s chair in the Oklahoma City National Memorial, where many of them will leave their marathon medals.
Billy, 75, and Joyce, 74, have attended every marathon, even though they found it difficult to do in the beginning.
“At first, it was sad, but it’s getting where we enjoy going and seeing all of them run, and seeing how they improve from year to year,” Joyce said.
The marathon and its outpouring of support for the bombing victims and their families is an example of something good that can result from such an evil act, she said.
“I think that is uplifting,” she said. “I am glad to see some good come from it.”