Relatives, friends and fellow legislators gathered yesterday to pay final tributes to state Sen. Edward E. Willey, whose death two days earlier was described as the end of an era in Virginia politics.

More than 500 people crowded into Centenary United Methodist Church in Richmond for a 30-minute service honoring Willey, the Richmond Democrat who was for many years among the most powerful members of the Virginia Senate.

The list of dignitaries attending the funeral included Gov. Gerald L. Baliles; his predecessor, Charles S. Robb, and state Attorney General Mary Sue Terry. Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder was said to be out of the country.

Also in attendance were Virginia's two Republican U.S. senators, John W. Warner and Paul S. Trible, as well as numerous other members of Congress and members of the General Assembly.

Willey, 76, died early Thursday at the Medical College of Virginia, where he had slipped into a coma the day before. Doctors attributed the death to complications from a stroke he had June 16 in Virginia Beach.

Willey, a Frederick County native and a retired pharmacist and drugstore owner, had been in declining health since February 1982, when he suffered a heart attack.