Nellie M. Broyhill, 79, an Arlington businesswoman and civic and church leader, died Tuesday at Arlington Hospital of complications following a recent heart attack.

She was the mother of former Rep. Joel T. Broyhill (R-Va.), of Arlington.

Born in Wilkes County, N.C., Mrs. Broyhill came to Arlington in 1937 with her husband, the late Marvin Talmadge Broyhill, founder of M. T. Broyhill & Sons, Inc. He died in 1966.

The firm built more than 15,000 houses in this area, most of them in Northern Virginia. Mrs. Broyhill was active in the family business from 1937 to 1947, specializing in commercial leases and selling apartment land.

In 1947, she helped found the Memorial Baptist Church in Arlington and became known as the "mother" of the church. For many years until her recent illness, she held a Monday morning prayer meeting for the church at her home.

Mrs. Broyhill led the establishment of the Arlington Memorial Rose Garden Foundation. Located at Bon Air park, the garden is a memorial to those who fought in World War II.

She was the first president of the Federal Epilepsy Association and a director of one of its major projects, the National Rehabilitation Center in Leesburg. She was an honorary life member of the board of directors of the Epilepsy Foundation of America.

Mrs. Broyhill also was the founder of the Potomac Woman's Club and wasnamed Professional Woman of the Year in Arlington in the early 1950s.

Also surviving are two daughters, Vivian J. Price, of McLean, and Nell Rose Murphy, of Arlington: another son, Herbert, of Virginia Beach; three sisters, Nina Robinson, of Pittsburgh, Zeola Gindhart, of Stockport, Ohio, and Ruby Evans, of falls Church, 19 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Arlington Hospital Fund.