An elderly, white-haired woman with badly swollen ankles sat in the lobby of The Shawmut, a stately old apartment building at 2200 19th St. NW, and stared out its large window, wondering what she would do now. Evelyn Garrett would no longer be bringing her groceries.

Garrett, 88, described by those who knew her as a portrait of joy, kindness and seemingly tireless enthusiasm, was fatally beaten Wednesday night and dumped on a remote, littered warehouse lot in Northeast Washington.

The news staggered the more than 70 residents of the apartment building where the round-faced woman lived for the last 16 years.

The founder and a board member of the building's tenant association, Garrett led successful lobbying efforts to protect residents' rights last year. She was a whirlwind of ideas in organizing the building's annual Christmas party.

Garrett, a retired federal worker, was always friendly, her neighbors said yesterday, and full of chatty tales of her world travels.

On a bulletin board by the building's elevator that Garrett worked hard to get repaired, Carol Parker, 35, tacked a neatly handwritten note bearing a color photograph of a smiling Garrett.

It concluded with these words: "We will miss her energy, her spirit and her undaunted enthusiasm for life."

Parker and her husband, Peter Harnik, 32, sat in their apartment yesterday with their 10-month-old son, Andrew. They talked in somber tones about the woman they called a "joy of a person."

"Everybody here is totally shocked and outraged and depressed. It's very sad," Parker said. "What a horrible way for her to die."

Although many of the building's younger residents viewed her as the perfect grandmother, Garrett was childless. Her friends say she had a niece of whom she was very fond who lived in Pottstown, Pa. Garrett was returning home from an Easter visit with that niece when she was killed.

D.C. Homicide Sgt. Jacques Girault said Garrett was last seen alive when a Trailways bus driver helped her with her bags at about 7 p.m. Wednesday at the company's Washington terminal at 12th Street and New York Avenue NW.

About 1 1/2 hours later, a passerby found Garrett, beaten unconscious, at Fourth and T streets NE. She did not respond to efforts to revive her on the way to Washington Hospital Center, where she was pronounced dead at 10:15 p.m.

After an autopsy today, Girault said that Garrett's injuries "were from beating: from a hand, stick or foot, it's hard to say."

Investigators say robbery was probably the motive. Girault added that police have no suspects and are "looking for help. We have nothing new at this time."