John A. Zalonis Jr.,61, a retired colonel in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps who became president of the Paul VI Institute for the Arts of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, died of a heart ailment Sept. 2 at the National Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Hospital.

Col. Zalonis, who maintained residences in Alexandria and Venice, Fla., was born in Laurel. He graduated from the University of Maryland and earned a master's degree in political science at Boston College and a law degree at Harvard University.

He began his military career in World War II, and served in the Philippines. He also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and in Germany as well as at posts in this country. He taught military law at the University of Virginia and was chief of the JAG section of the Military District of Washington when he retired in 1977.

Col. Zalonis then devoted himself to volunteer work for the Washington Archdiocese and served on various panels, including the social justice committee. In 1979, he assumed the presidency of the Paul VI Institute for the Arts. He helped organize the church's annual national competition in small religious sculpture and helped establish the Gallery Kormendy, which was sponsored by the Paul VI Institute and others to encourage young artists.

Col. Zalonis was a member of the parish of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria and a eucharistic minister at Holy Family Catholic Church in Forestville. He was a pianist and as a young man had been music director at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Laurel.

He leaves no immediate survivors.