Theresa Dilworth, 53, wrote online publication

September 16, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Theresa Prell Dilworth, a homemaker who created the online publication InstaMom to offer motherly advice to college students, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 9 at her home near Catonsville. She was 53.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville, she attended St. Mark Parochial School and was a 1973 graduate of what is now Seton Keough High School.

She earned a business administration degree from University of Maryland, College Park in 1975. She worked at the school for several years in its accounts receivable department, but then became a full-time homemaker after the birth of the first of her three sons.

"She would rather be home, taking care of us," said son Zachary P. Dilworth, 18, a recent high school graduate planning to study architecture at College Park. "That was more important than working at an outside job."

In 1999, she embarked on a new endeavor in online advice. She wrote and edited her daily e-zine, InstaMom, posted free on the Internet and reaching about 5,000 subscribers.

"She wanted people to be able to access a motherly figure at any moment," said an older son, Joshua P. Dilworth, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who is a filmmaker. "She would cut to the chase and tell you what she thought. She had a wonderful sense of humor. Online, she was anonymous, a straight shooter, and her readers could take her advice or throw it out. She was fine with it either way."

Mrs. Dilworth, who used the name InstaMom as her Internet persona, offered jokes, news of the day, etiquette and practical tips about cleaning, cooking, housekeeping and dating. In a recent issue, she gave a recipe for making microwave peanut brittle.

"It was originally intended for college students, but older adults and parents subscribed to it in equal numbers," said Joshua Dilworth. "The parents liked what she was saying and would use her recommendations for their own children."

Family members said she had no advertising and relied upon word of mouth. She devoted several hours a day to the enterprise, working from the den of her home in the West Hills neighborhood. The last e-zine edition was published June 10.

She had also been a volunteer at the schools her sons attended -- St. Agnes Parochial School, where she had been an occasional substitute teacher, McDonogh School and Mount St. Joseph High School.

She was also a baker who made peach chiffon pies, 20 varieties of Christmas cookies and rum buns, among other specialties.

Services were held Tuesday in Catonsville.

She is also survived by her husband of 28 years, David P. Dilworth, a graphic designer for the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions; another son, Daniel P. Dilworth, 20, a University of Delaware art history student; her mother, Jean Prell of Catonsville; a brother, Mark Richard Prell of Catonsville; and a sister, Sharon M. D'Anna of Bel Air.

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