Robert L. Hafer, 53, director of operations and maintenance for the Physical Plant Department at the University of Maryland in college Park, died Tuesday at Montgomery General Hospital after an apparent heart attack. d

Mr. Hafer joined the Physical Plant Department in 1953 as a maintenance supervisor. He subsequently became assistant to the maintenance suppervisor and assistant to the director of personnel for the plant. He was named director of the office of operations and maintenance in 1974.

He was born in Wheeling, W. Va., and earned a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Maryland in 1950.

Mr. Hafer served in the Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II and in the Army during the Korean conflict. A colonel in the army Reserve, he was commanding officer of the Riverdale Army Reserve Center

He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of Physical Plant Adminstrators and the Montgomery Central Lions Club.

Surviors include hs wife, Nancy, and two sons, John and David, all of the home in Derwood, Md.; another son,ROBERT L. III, of Quantico, Va.; a daughter, Charlotte H. Burgan, of Riverdale; and his mother, Suetta, and a brother, Eugene B., both of McMechen, W.Va.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Montgomery Central Lions Club Eye Bank.