Van Rae Lambert Salley, 54, an administrative secretary with the U.S. Postal Service, was found dead Sunday in her home in Arlington. The Northern Virginia Medical Examiner's Office said she died Saturday of acute coronary insufficiency.

Mrs. Salley was born in Wagner, S.C., and grew up there and in Columbia, S.C. She first came to Washington in 1942, and became a secretary for the government. Over the next 11 years, she worked for the Veterans Administration, the Federal Housing Administration, the Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Army.

She then returned to Columbia, S.C., and was the office manager of the Shell Oil Co. office there. In 1967, she came back to the Washington area and worked briefly for an engineering firm. She began her career with the old Post Office Department, now the Postal Service, in 1968.

Mrs. Salley's marriage to William C. Lambert ended in divorce. She subsequently resumed her maiden name.

Survivors include a daughter, Vicki Rae Lambert Hill, of Alexandria; her mother, Ruby Corbett Salley Utter, also of Alexandria; her father, John B. Salley, of Plainfield, Ind., and a sister, Frances Bennett, of Columbia, S.C.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Carolina Children's Home, Columbia, S.C.