She was know as Mama Dorothy, and over the decades she had become a legend among the old settlers in her neighborhood on the Southeast edge of Capitol Hill.

Starting in the early 1940s, this quiet, orderly, religious woman had taken into her home dozens of people -- homeless adults, unwanted children, or children of people who lacked money or time to care for them adequately.

And when 69-year-old Dorothy Twyman died Friday night in a fire that swept her red, two-story brick town house on 10th Street SE, the street was jammed with men and women, young and old, weeping uncontrollably.

"She was a mother of the world,"said William Clinton, one of the many people reared by Twyman from childhood. "She was a humanitarian, a good Samaritan, a good person. We are all her children."

"She was sent from heaven to us," said Barbara Wilson, who works in a pharmacy at D.C. General Hospital. Twyman had reared not only Wilson, but Wilson's five children as well.

Twyman's youngsters now have jobs ranging from a District of Columbia police officer to a practical nurse to federal workers to maintenance workers to secretaries.

twyman was one of the few remaining blacks on a block that has undergone rapid renovation to Georgetown-style town houses in recent years. For the most part, she was not known by the younger white couples who moved in, restored old houses and hung plants in their living room windows out front.

But among the black families who have been on the block since the years just after World War II, Twyman was loved.

Orales Workman, one of Twyman's closest friends, said she first met Twyman in 1947 when she needed a place to live.She lived with Twyman and her husband for two years.

She said Twyman grew up in what used to be called "Tenley Town," near Tenley Circle in Northwest Washington. Twyman had worked as a domestic for white families in the suburbs and her husband drove a cab.

The two loved children, Workman said, and as early as 1947, Twyman was caring for two young girls.

Exactly how Twyman, whose husband died several years ago, managed to find the money to care for the children se reared was still a mystery yesterday.

"I don't know (how she managed)," said Workman. "The Lord just made a way."

Joyce Virgil, who is married and has a 16-year-old daughter, said Twyman found her at the old D.C.Junior Village, a home for abandoned and mistreated children, when she was 3 years old. Her mother was in St. Elizabeths Hospital and there was no one to care for her. "She was a mother to me," Virgil said.

"She took my three sisters and brother and raised us all," said 32-year old Jacqueline Davis, who was taken in by Twyman at the age of 6. She said her mother couldn't afford to take care of them.

Besides caring for children, Twyman took in adults who had no place to live. At the time of the fire an elderly man and woman were rooming in her basement.

There were six people in the house at 228 10th St. SE when the fire started about 7 p.m. on Friday. Twyman, who was in a front bedroom on the second floor, was the only person upstaris. Everyone else escaped uninjured.

The fire, whose cause is undetermined, started in the kitchen area in the rear of the house.

Twyman called for Nathan Davis, who was downstairs, but the flames were too high in the stairway for him to reach her.

Davis and one of the younger people who lived with Twyman ran to a neighbor's house to call the fire department.

When the first fire trucks arrived, flames and smoke were gushing out of the rear first and second-floor windows. Witnesses reported hearing an explosion.

Relatives said the explosion was more than likely an oxygen respirator that was in a back bedroom on the second floor just above the kitchen. The respirator belonged to William Snowden, who suffers from emphysema. The 76-year-old Snowden was in the hospital at the time of the fire.

Relatives and friends said the fire probably spread so rapidly because of the oxygen.

Twyman was trapped. She died of smoke inhalation.

Delores Star said she was enroute to her mother's Southeast Washington home when the fire occurred. She was taking her 3-year-old grandson for his regular weekend visit with Twyman.

"As I got near the street, I saw all the fire trucks," she said. "They wouldn't let me drive my car through. I left the baby in the car and ran up the street. When I got there, they told me she was dead."

"We all loved her," said Star. She said a couple who had lived next door to Twyman until a few years ago came to the fire scene on Friday after they heard on television about what had happened. "She was a beautiful person."

Sitting in a folding chair in the Southeast Corps of the Salvation Army at 12th and G streets NW where Twyman was a member, Workman recalled how she and Twyman would go downtown to shop during the Christmas holdiays.

"We would spend two or three days shopping downtown. We would never buy anything. Later we would go back to her house and talk about how high prices are," she said, tears forming in her eyes.

As she grew older Twyman who had heart trouble, slowed somewhat, Workman said. But her children said they still couldn't stop her from devoting seven days a week to the Salvation Army.

Lt. Michael Hawley, who heads the Southeast Corps of the Salvation Army, said Twyman "was very faithful. She rarely missed activities or meetings."

Workman said years ago she was in the hospital and on the day she was to be discharged her husband was unable to pick her up.

He called Twyman. "She came to the hospital and got me. Paid for the bill and everything. My husband wrote her a check."

Star, who at the age of 50 is the oldest of the people Twyman nurtured, said Twyman had "certain rules you had to follow. You had to go to church on Sunday. If you didn't, you didn't go outside that day."

"She believed in a clean house" said Jacqueline Davis. "We were always cleaning."

The children said Mama Dorothy sent them to school. She also taught them to respect their elders.

Each year on the second Sunday in May, many of the children whom Twyman cared for would gather at her Southeast home to celebrate Mother's Day.

Yesterday, Star still was trying to find many of the people reared by Twyman over the years to break the news to them. "They're all going to be sad," Star said.