Donald M. Essex, 57, a Washington native who had worked for the Veterans Administration canteen service for the past 31 years, died Feb. 20 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Castle Point, N.Y., after a heart attack. He lived in Castle Point.

Mr. Essex was a graduate of Eastern High School and American University. He joined the VA in 1951. He left here four years later and worked at VA hospitals in Butler, Pa., and Ann Arbor, Mich. He was working at the Castle Point Hospital at the time of his death.

He served with the Marine Corps in the Pacific and in China during World War II.

Survivors include his wife, the former Easter May Taylor of Castle Point; three daughters, Melody Essex of Stamford, Conn., and Dona Finamore and Mary Joe Essex, both of Pittsburgh; his mother, Mary D. Essex of Hyattsville; six sisters, Rita Molyneaux of Silver Spring, Carol Howell of Columbia, S.C., Betty Derwent of Hyattsville, Patricia Meagher of Washington, Joan Goeckritz of Goleta, Calif., and Anne Phillips of Bowie; four brothers, George R., of Los Angeles, Richard, of Willingboro, N.J., Charles, of Maryville, Tenn., and Staff Sgt. David Essex who is stationed in Washington state.