Cecilia E. (Gay) Bowers, 81, a retired executive secretary and member of the board of directors of the Hattie M. Strong Foundation, which provides interest-free loans to students, died at Fairfax Hospital on Saturday of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Mrs. Bowers also was a founder of the Bowers Family Foundation. It collected toys and other gifts for needy children at Christmas by giving a ball at which guests would bring a gift. She remained active in this work until the early 1970s.

A native of Washington, Mrs. Bowers lived in the city until moving to Arlington 45 years ago. She began working with the Hattie M. Strong Foundation about 1930 and rose to be its executive secretary. She also was a member of the board at the time of her retirement in 1977.

Her husband, Haryy Bowers, died in 1957.

Survivors include a daughter, Barbara B. Cantrell, of Springfield; three brothers, Francis and Roger Coupe, of Arlington, and Edward Coupe, of Little River, S.C.; a sister, Celeste Martin, of Kenshington; 11 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to Children's Hospital, or to the Catholic Charities of Northern Virginia.