Cathy Freeman crosses the line to win gold in the women’s 400m final at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Photo: Mike Powell /Allsport
Cathy Freeman crosses the line to win gold in the women’s 400m final at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Photo: Mike Powell /Allsport

Rocky woman’s special link to Olympian Cathy Freeman

LIKE millions of others, Rockhampton’s Evol Jarro sat transfixed, watching on as Cathy Freeman etched her name in sporting folklore at the Sydney Olympics.

It is 20 years to the day that Cathy, decked out in that green, gold and white full bodysuit, raced to victory in the women’s 400m final, becoming the first Indigenous Australian to win an individual Olympic event.

Evol, a proud Indigenous woman, said it was an incredible moment.

“I had tears in my eyes. I was pretty choked up,” she said.

“We were all so proud of her.”

Evol had met a young version of the champion athlete some years earlier as her cousin is married to Cathy’s aunty.

The family connection would lead to Evol making Cathy’s wedding cake for her first marriage to Sandy Bodecker in September 1999.

Evol Jarro with a photo album full of photos of her prize-winning cake creations. Photo: Jann Houley
Evol Jarro with a photo album full of photos of her prize-winning cake creations. Photo: Jann Houley

By that stage, Evol was a cakemake and decorator of some renown.

“Cathy’s mum Cecelia rang and asked me if I would be interested in doing it and I said I would be honoured,” Evol said.

“She just told me what Cathy wanted and I made it. It was very nice – it was an oval fruit cake with bright red roses.

“It was very special to do that for such a high-profile person. That was the highlight of my cake decorating.”

Evol said her one regret was that she never took a photo of the beautiful creation which, she remembers, did feature in a story about the wedding in The Women’s Weekly.

One of Evol Jarro's stunning creations.
One of Evol Jarro's stunning creations.

Evol revealed it was the heartbreaking loss of her mother that led her into cake decorating in the early 1980s.

“I wasn’t coping too well because we were so close,” she recalls. “I decided I needed to get into something to get me out of this rut.”

She and her younger sister Beverley took some classes with the then YWCA and, after learning the basics, decided to strike out on their own.

“After that, everything was self-taught,” she said.

“I kept practising at home; I bought different books and just kept learning.”

The first wedding cake Evol made was for her sister Janis.

She used her mum’s recipe, just as she did for Cathy’s cake and every other traditional fruit cake she has made.

She continued to refine her skills and simply through word of mouth the orders rolled in.

“I love cake decorating,” she said.

Evol Jarro made a host of wedding cakes.
Evol Jarro made a host of wedding cakes.

“It’s frustrating if the weather isn’t good – if it’s raining or humid it plays havoc with the marzipan – but overall, it’s a very relaxing hobby.

“It was wonderful seeing the finished product. I would stand back and admire it and think ‘I can’t believe I’ve done that’ and with each cake there was always an improvement.”

Evol enjoyed success at the Rockhampton Show, winning grand champion three years in a row (2001-2003) with her wedding cakes.

She also made the top 10 in The Morning Bulletin’s best cakemaker poll run in July.

Unfortunately, she broke her wrist 12 months ago which brought her cake decorating to a standstill.

Now, instead of moulding flowers from marzipan, she tends to the real ones in her garden.

But she can still whip up a rich fruit cake which, she says is the type of cake she most enjoys.

“My top tip for a good fruit cake is to soak your fruit overnight in rum or sherry. I normally use rum, good old Bundy rum,” she said.