Jose L. Ardai, 65, a retired general contractor in Arlington, died of cancer Thursday in Fairfax Hospital.

He had operated the Jay Contracting Co. for 20 years before retiring last year. The firm worked on additions and remodeling of private and commercial buildings and also handled government contracts.

Born in Havana, Cuba. Mr. Ardai came to Falls Church at the age of 12 and had lived there since. He attended Western Hight School and Virginia Military Institute.

During World War II, he was a master sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers. Just before the war and then after the war, he was salesman for the lumber firm of Galliher and Huguely Associates.

A 32d degree Mason, Mr. Ardai was a member of Kemper Lodge in Falls Church and Kena Temple for more than 25 years. He also was a 25-year member of the Arlington Optimist Club.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine D., of the home in Falls Church: a daughter, Armin A. Cornwell, of Newport News, Va., a son, Jose L. Jr., of Nyack, N.Y.; two sisters, Rosita Graff, of Miami Shores, Fla., and Mrs. L. G. Wittmann, of West Bend, Wis., and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Shriner's Hospital for Crippled Children in Philadelphia.