They held a memorial service for Ellsworth Bunker yesterday at Washington Cathedral.

He was our ambassador to South Vietnam through the worst years of the war and negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty in 1978. He served as a diplomat all over the world, from Argentina to Italy to India to New Guinea to the Middle East to the Dominican Republic.

He served under every president from Harry Truman to Jimmy Carter.

He was 90 when he died Sept. 27 in Vermont.

Several busloads of unsmiling people from the State Department came to the service. Secretary of State George Shultz drove up early to pay his respects to the family, but had to leave before the service.

"There aren't a lot of VIPs here," said Linda Freeman of the cathedral staff, "just people he worked with." There were 407 at the service, she said.

At 2:20, two women in raincoats slipped into the front row. The ushers, aghast, moved them.

At 2:29, as the organ murmured "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," Caroline Laise Bunker, who was our ambassador to Nepal when Bunker married her in 1967, walked in from the north transept, escorted by a naval officer. His three children by an earlier marriage and other family members sat by her. Bunker's first wife, the former Harriet Butler, died in 1964.

Photographers and TV cameramen, stationed by a giant pier, took pictures.

The procession of choirboys and flagbearers and clerics began when the music ended. There was no sound but the soft clap of shoes on stone.

"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live," intoned the Right Rev. John T. Walker, bishop of Washington. ". . . The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

The choir sang Psalm 46, and then the Rev. Edward L. Lee Jr., the rector, read from St. Paul: " 'I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us . . .' " Canon Michael P. Hamilton read the Beatitudes.

The bishop spoke. "From time to time there comes among us one who stands out as a servant of the people," he said, calling to mind Bunker's "depth of spiritual strength, profound understanding and kindness" and describing him as "a man of faith, a man concerned about all the people he served . . . a peacemaker.

"The man we honor today was a true servant," the bishop said, "a servant of the presidents he was called upon to serve, a servant of the people, a servant of peace."

At 2:57 the procession left the sanctuary and walked down the aisle singing "God of Our Fathers." As the clerics passed, Mrs. Bunker smiled and gently nodded.