By day, Walter C. Hardesty was a graduate student at George Washington University, studying to become a clinical psychologist. By night, he was a cabdriver, ferrying people all over the District.

His wife, Pat, didn't like it. She wanted him to spend more time at home with their two children. And the job -- stopping on dark streets, picking up complete strangers -- was just too dangerous.

Early yesterday, Hardesty picked up a fare and as he drove through Northeast Washington.

He was struck on the head, shot in the neck and thrown out of his cab, police said. He died four hours later at D.C. General Hospital.

"He was a top character, a very wonderful person," said R.B. Taylor, president of East Side Cab company in Northwest, who said that Hardesty, 46, began driving for the company in 1981. "He was just moonlighting to take care of himself and his family, like so many people these days."

"He was one of the best interns I've ever had in 20 years," said Dr. Alcides Pinto, chief psychologist and director of the intern training program at Crownsville State Hospital in Annapolis. Pinto said that Hardesty completed a one-year internship there in September. Hardesty graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida in 1960, Pinto said.

"His performance here was impeccable," said Dr. Leo Hruska, a staff psychologist at the hospital. "The internship here pays very little, and it always amazed me that he was driving a cab and doing so many other things at the same time. He was so dedicated and extremely hard working."

Mrs. Hardesty, 42, said her husband was the founder of two Montessori schools in Washington. He had a keen interest in children and was a Sunday school teacher at a local church, she said.

Dr. Maureen Kearney, who supervised Hardesty at the George Washington University counseling center, said he was "truly unique.

"He was very active and involved in the therapeutic process, unlike a lot of psychologists who listen to their patients and just say, 'Hmmm.' "

Kearney said that Hardesty was working for a PhD in clinical psychology and had completed all requirements except his dissertation.

Pat Hardesty, sitting on the porch of her two-story brick home on Taylor Street NW yesterday, said she had been worried about her husband working Halloween night. But the dangers were there every night of the week, she said.

Earlier in the day, he had gone to Georgetown with his two children, Rebecca, 11, and Christopher, 14, to shop for Halloween costumes, Mrs. Hardesty said. Rebecca wanted to dress up as a punk rocker, and she needed a spiked bracelet, she said.

After dinner, Hardesty took his daughter trick-or-treating with some other neighborhood children and their parents.

Then they came home, and at about 10:30 p.m. Hardesty drove off in his cab to work the streets, as he frequently did on weekends and week nights, according to his wife.

Police said that at about 2 a.m. yesterday, someone called to report gunshots during what appeared to be an armed robbery near 18th and H streets NE.

A short time later, police said, another witness saw Hardesty being thrown out of his cab on H Street near 15th Street.

Hardesty was taken to the hospital, where he died about 6 a.m., police said.

They said Hardesty's cab was found in a parking lot at 14th and Downing streets NE, where it had been set on fire. Police said they have no suspects.

"Walter would give a free ride every 15 rides," his wife said yesterday. "When a person went to pay him, he'd say to keep it and give it to your favorite charity."

She said her husband kept only small change with him in the cab and locked the rest in the trunk. "He didn't keep a lot of money with him. Just enough to break a 5 or 10" dollar bill, she said.

"The guy didn't get much money," and that may have been why he was shot.

"The safety of cabdrivers is a serious problem that nobody seems to be addressing," said Taylor, head of East Side Cab.

"It's a product of the times, what with drugs, the need for money, unemployment. If a person wants to do this, there's nothing you can do to stop him. No kind of protection will assure complete and total safety."