Frances Wiley Norton Nicholas, 86, who retired from the Navy Department in 1964 after 28 years of federal service, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at the Circle Terrace Hospital in Alexandria.

Mrs. Nicholas was born on a farm in Lorton in Fairfax County. She attended local schools and graduated from what is now Madison College in Harrisonburg, Va.

In 1917, she married Judge James Keith Marshall Norton and settled in Alexandria, where she lived for the rest of her life. For about three years before her marriage, she was a teacher in Fairfax County.

Judge Norton died in 1929. His widow later married John Ambler Nicholas, a cousin of the judge. Mr. Nicholas died in 1936 and Mrs. Nicholas began her government career in the same year.

She worked for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing . In World War II, she transferred to the old War Department, where she was an auditor. She remained with the agency after it became the Department of the Army, working in its finance section. In the late 1950s, Mrs. Nicholas moved to the finance section of the Navy Department at the old Naval Gun Factory. She retired in 1964.

Mrs. Nicholas was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria.

Her survivors include two sisters, Mildred Wiley Engle and Lelia Wiley Troup, both of Alexandria, and one brother, Ernest Edward Wiley of Lorton.