Harriett E. Cheek, 72, the foster mother of more than 100 children, many of whom were placed with her by Family and Child Services of Washington, D.C., died of cancer Saturday at the Washington Hospital Center.

In 1959, Mrs. Cheek was Family and Child Services' choice for "foster mother of the year," an honor conferred by the D.C. Health and Welfare Council. She received honorable mention for the award.

Mrs. Cheek, who was born near Richmond, grew up in Herndon and graduated from Herndon High School. She moved to Washington in the mid-1930s following her marriage to Robert E. Cheek, an employe of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co.

The family began taking in foster children shortly after moving here. They continued this work until a year ago, when Mrs. Cheek's health began to fail. The 101st -- and last -- child they cared for was a 12-year-old boy who was retarded.

Many of the children Mrs. Cheek cared for were infants. Some of the others were retarded. Most were adopted by families after having spent a period in the Cheek household.

In nominating her for the "foster mother of the year" award, Family and Child Services cited Mrs. Cheek's "warm loving care, sensitive and imaginative stiulation, scrupulous cooperation with community health resources, and accurate sharing of observations" with social workers and others concerned with adoption and other aspects of the welfare of homeless children.

Mrs. Cheek was a member of the old Bradburn Methodist Church in Washington and taught Sunday school there for many years.

In addition to her husband, of Washington, survivors include two sons, Gary C., of Edgewater, Md., and Arthur C., of Laurel; two daughters, Stella M. Wright of Landover, and Susan D. Cheek of Washington; two sisters, Grace Burr of Suitland, and Virginia Wright of Sarasota, Fla.; and eight grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a memorial fund in Mrs. Cheek's name at Children's Hospital, Washington D.C.