The body of John C. Lormans, the 77-year-old Southeast Washington community leader who disappeared more than a month ago, was found over the weekend buried in a pauper's cemetery in New York City. Lormans apparently suffered a fatal heart attack on a city bus on his way to visit his sister.

Family and friends learned Monday of his death. Two D.C. police detectives had gone to New York to pore through records, where they stumbled upon clues about the retired post office worker.

The officers discovered that Lormans had made it to the city, but had the fatal heart attack shortly after he arrived.

New York police notified Lormans' sister of his death, but "in her senility, she thought she had had a dream," said D.C. Detective Thomas Hardesty. Since the sister did not understand what had become of her brother, his body went unclaimed at the morgue.

A spokesman at the New York City medical examiner's office said yesterday that Lormans was buried June 11 at Potter's Field, a public cemetery for the thousands of unknown or unclaimed dead buried by the city each year.

"The people up and down the street are very upset about the way it was handled," said Leonard Walker, one of Lormans' neighbors in the Capital View neighborhood of Southeast. Walker said he thinks that the New York police should have made an effort to contact someone in Washington about the death of the community leader and advisory neighborhood commissioner.

Walker's wife Amanda said she is angry too, but added, "It's a relief to know he wasn't beat up . . . {that he died of} natural causes."

During the last week in May, Lormans told the Walkers and several other friends that he was planning to visit his ailing sister, Sadie Ryan, and try to persuade the 88-year-old woman to move in with him so he could care for her. He told a friend of his sister's that he would arrive about noon on May 27, but never got there.

When Lormans did not return home the first week of June as expected, friends and neighbors became concerned and notified Lormans' sister-in-law, who reported him missing. Worried friends at Hughes Memorial Methodist Church, where Lormans headed the building fund, began a reward fund that grew to $1,300 last week.

Hardesty, who works for the District police missing persons division, called New York police, but was told they had come across no one matching Lormans' description. Telephone calls to Sadie Ryan provided Hardesty with no new information.

Hardesty learned from neighbors that Lormans had sent his luggage ahead, and as far as anyone knew took a train May 27 from Union Station to New York City.

Instinct told Hardesty and his boss, Deputy Chief Leonard Maiden, that something had happened between the train station and the sister's house, so last Sunday, Hardesty and Sgt. Peter Banks drove to New York.

The officers spent two days going through hospital and insurance records, then decided to look at police precinct reports. "In the second batch of reports we went through, we found his name," Hardesty said.

The detectives determined from the police reports that Lormans had arrived in New York, then boarded an uptown bus, where he had the heart attack. Paramedics were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, Hardesty said. Police notified his sister and the body was taken to the city morgue.

Two days ago, a bill for emergency services arrived at Lormans' home from Roosevelt Hospital, relatives said.

Carl Hall, the son of Lormans' niece, said yesterday that the family plans to have the body returned to Washington so Lormans can be buried next to his wife Grace, who died 10 years ago.

"It's inexcusable that they {New York City officials} proceeded the way they did," said Lorman's sister-in-law, Clyta Dantzler.