Richard N. Taliaferro, 81, a retired investment counselor with the Washington firm of Loomis Sayles who had worked here since 1943, died Sunday at the Iliff Nursing Home in Dunn Loring, Va. He had arteriosclerosis.

Mr. Taliaferro was born in Galveston, Tex., and later moved to Gloucester, Va. He joined the Marine Corps after graduation from high school and served as a drill instructor in this country before going to France in World War I.

He later graduated from Yale University and joined Loomis Sayles in Boston. He was named director of the firm's Washington office in 1943. He retired in 1966.

In 1974, Mr. Taliaferro, who had lived in Chevy Chase, moved to Massachusetts. He returned to this area two years later and entered the Iliff Nursing Home. His wife moved there in 1978.

Mr. Taliaferro was a member of the board of the Metropolitan Club, and a member of the Chevy Chase Club and the Yale Club of Washington, of which he was a former president. He also served on the boards of the Girl Scouts of America, the Traveler's Aid Society in Washington, and the St. John's Development Services for Children, an orphanage.

Mr. Taliaferro was a member of the board of trustees of the Washington Hospital Center from 1965 to 1967 and was a former treasurer for the Washington Cathedral.

In addition to his wife, Olive S., survivors include a daughter, Betsey T. Capraro of Reston; two sons, Richard N. Jr., of Arlington, and Carter W., of Rockville; a sister, Elizabeth Close of Greenwich, Conn., and six grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a charity of one's choice or to the Washington Cathedral.