Sarah Martin Wahl, 59, the wife of a Foreign Service officer who lived in Washington since June, died of cancer Thursday at Washington Hospital Center.

Mrs. Wahl was born in Tokyo, Japan, of missionary parents. She lived in Japan until coming to this country to attend Colby College, from which she graduated in 1943.

She served in the WAVEs during World War II, then worked for three years for the Netherlands East Indies government in Java as a Japanese language translator.

She married Theodore A. Wahl in 1948 while he was serving as American vice counsel in Tsingtao, China. They later lived in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

While in Lebanon from 1964 to 1968, she did volunteer work with Palestinian refugee women, advising them on how to market their needlepoint work.

In addition to her husband and a daughter, Harriet, both of the home, she is survived by two sons, Martin, of Blacksburg, Va., and Russell, of Bloomington, Ind.; two brothers, James V. Martin, of Washington, and Harris I. Martin, of Aptos, Calif., and a sister, Maribel M. Kilmartin, of Palo Alto, Calif.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Cancer Home Care program of Georgetown University Hospital.