Retired Navy Cmdr. Charles H. Willis, 56, who served in the Navy for more than 20 years and was a resident of Northern Virginia from 1962 to 1977, died Friday in his home in Snug Harbor, Worcester County, Md., after a heart attack.

Cmdr. Willis was a native of East New Market, Md., and entered the Navy During World War II. During his years of service, he was an engineering officer and commanding officer of destroyers and minesweepers.

He commanded a destroyer in Antarctic waters as part of "Operation Deep Freeze" during the International Geophysical Year in 1959 1960. For his work in that operation he had a mountain an Antarctica named for him, a family spokesman said.

His last assignment before retiring in 1964 was a two-year tour at the Pentagon. He was head of the surveillance branch of the underseas warfare development division in the Office of the Chief of Navl Operations. w

Cmdr. Willis lived in Springfield from 1962 to 1967, then spent 10 years in Arlington before moving to Snug Harbor in 1977. He was a partner in Lathero & Co., a stamp-collecting store in Arlington, from 1966 to 1967.

His first wife, Barbara Willis, died in 1967.

His survivors include his wife, Dorothy L. of Snug Harbor; three sons by his first marriage, David of Woodbridge, and Michael and Charles Jr., both of Derwood, Md., and a brother, Paul, of Wilmington, Del.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Berlin, Md., Public Library in Berlin, Md.