BEIRUT, AUG. 7 -- Camille Chamoun, 87, a former president of Lebanon and the country's most powerful Christian leader, died at the St. George Greek Orthodox Hospital today after a heart attack.

His death brought to a close an era marked by traditional politicians who witnessed Lebanon's birth as an independent nation and its fragmentation in 12 years of civil war.

A longtime ally of the British and the United States, Mr. Chamoun asked President Dwight Eisenhower to send U.S. Marines to Lebanon to crush a Moslem rebellion in 1958. As the finance minister in a crippled government of national unity at the time of his death, he spent his last days haggling with acting Prime Minister Selim Hoss over a Moslem proposal to sell some of Lebanon's gold reserves to buoy a flagging economy and bolster the exchange rate for the tumbling Lebanese pound.

Mr. Chamoun was president from 1952 to 1958. His name was associated with Lebanon's relative stability and prosperity before the early 1970s, when the Palestine Liberation Organization, expelled from Jordan, established itself as a major presence in Lebanon. That upset the delicate balance of Moslem and Christian interests, and civil war resulted.

A staunch critic of the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon and an outspoken opponent of Syrian dominance over this small nation of 3 million, Mr. Chamoun was the architect of a now dormant alliance between Lebanon's Christians and Israel as a means for countering Moslem pressure for greater political clout.

Mr. Chamoun, a former ambassador to London, a lawyer, businessman and member of parliament, founded the National Liberal Party and headed the Lebanese Front, an alliance of Christian Maronite leaders. His conservative approach to Lebanese issues and resistance to political change in favor of Lebanon's growing Moslem community won him both enemies and admirers.

Fired by resentment against the spreading power of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mr. Chamoun strove to make Lebanon a modern and westernized democratic state. He presided over the establishment of Lebanon's first major gambling casino, a once majestic sports stadium now shattered by bombings and war, completion of Beirut International Airport and the initiation of the famed Baalbeck Festivals in ancient Roman ruins in central Lebanon, which attracted musical, theatrical and cultural performances of international renown until the beginning of the civil war in 1975.

His main hobbies were hunting and trap shooting. He was said to have shot at Moslem insurgents from the roof of his presidential palace in 1958. The outbreak was triggered by his thwarted intentions to change the Lebanese constitution so he could run for president a second time. He survived at least three attempts on his life.

Mr. Chamoun is remembered most for his vociferous disapproval of Nasser and the Egyptian leader's move to nationalize the Suez Canal "because it went against French and British interests." He also backed the Baghdad Pact, signed Feb. 24, 1955, between Turkey and Iraq but did not commit Lebanon to it.

Although avowedly pro-western and a defender of American policy in the region, he always advised his friends "to do anything but politics with the Americans" whom he saw as fickle and naive in conducting diplomacy in the Middle East.

Mr. Chamoun's absence from the Christian scene is likely to splinter the already fractious community. Samir Geagea, commander of the Lebanese forces, the Christian Militias, is likely to be the greatest loser. The radical militia leader looked to Mr. Chamoun as a mentor and godfather and as a buffer between himself and President Amin Gemayel.

Of his two sons, Dory and Dany Chamoun, both engineers by training, only the younger has opted for a political career. At 55, Dany Chamoun declared his candidacy to run for president in elections scheduled for September 1988. The post is reserved for Maronite Christians, according to an unwritten Lebanese formula of government.

Although stubborn and dogmatic in his rejection of Moslem demands for greater power, Camille Chamoun was shrewd and witty, and he was known for pragmatism at times of crisis. A distinguished-looking and charismatic figure, he and his attractive wife, Zalfa, brought elegance, glamor and cosmopolitanism to Lebanon as a presidential couple in better and more peaceful days.

LEON N. PERRY,

50, a public affairs officer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and a former member of the Human Relations Commission of Prince George's County, died Aug. 6 at George Washington University Hospital after a heart attack.

Mr. Perry, a resident of Upper Marlboro, was born in New York City. He attended New York University, Prince George's Community College and Harvard University.

He was a broadcast journalist in New York, Nashville and St. Louis. He also worked for Illinois Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie before moving to the Washington area in 1974 and joining NASA.

He was a member of the Prince George's Human Relations Commission from 1974 to 1979, and he had been a member of the board of review of the Maryland Department of Transportation since 1982.

Mr. Perry twice received NASA's "Space Ship Earth Award" for community service and in 1985 he received the agency's Exceptional Performance Award.

His marriage to the former Willie Moore ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Jerry Eileen Perry, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, of Upper Marlboro, and three half brothers, Clyde Powell of New York City, Lonnie Powell of Washington and Lee Walker of Lanham.

PATRICIA FARNSWORTH BOWSER,

65, an administrative assistant to former Montgomery County Council member Esther P. Gelman, died of cancer Aug. 5 at her home in Gaithersburg.

Mrs. Bowser was on Gelman's staff from 1975 until 1984, and she had worked previously for three years as administrative assistant to the executive secretary of a service and study commission on the Takoma-East Silver Spring area of Montgomery County.

Before that she was a secretary at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for 13 years.

Mrs. Bowser was born in Washington and graduated from the old Central High School.

She was a former chairman of the Villa Ridge Condominium Association in Gaithersburg and for 12 years had been a member of Parents Without Partners.

Her marriage to J. William Bowser ended in divorce.

Survivors include one daughter, Stephanie L. Cohen of Rockville; two sons, retired Navy Chief Warrant Officer James W. Bowser of Clinton and William R. Bowser of Takoma Park; two brothers, John Farnsworth of San Diego and Fred Farnsworth of Beltsville; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

LOIS M. RETTIE,

79, a retired teacher in the Arlington County public schools who also had been active in programs for the elderly, died of cancer Aug. 7 at Arlington Hospital.

Mrs. Rettie, who lived in Arlington, was born in Fossil, Ore. She graduated from George Washington University. She moved to the Washington area in the early 1950s and joined the Arlington public school system. She retired in 1973.

She was a past board chairman of the Arlington Education Retirement Corp. and was a past chairman of the Arlington Advisory Commission on Aging. She also had been a vice chairman of the Arlington Steering Committee on Services to Older Persons.

Mrs. Rettie was a member of the American Association of University Women, the Arlington Retired Teachers Association and the Arlington Unitarian Church.

Her husband, James C. Rettie, died in 1969.

Survivors include two sons, Dwight Rettie of Arlington and William Rettie of Chapel Hill, N.C.; one daughter, Josephine Morgan of Charlotte, N.C.; one sister, Lorrane Good of Camas, Wash.; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

KATHLEEN M. ROBERTS,

38, an accounts clerk with Morauer & Hartzell Inc., a construction firm in Beaver Heights, Md., and a former employe of Amtrak, died Aug. 4 at the Prince George's Hospital Center after a heart attack.

Mrs. Roberts, who lived in Cheverly, was born in Miami. She grew up in the Washington area and graduated from Bladensburg High School. She worked for Amtrak from 1972 to 1983. She joined Morauer & Hartzell in 1986.

She was a member of the women's auxiliary of the American Legion.

Survivors include her husband, Stephen Roberts, and two children, Kristine and Kyle Roberts, all of Cheverly; her father, Hubert McGaffin of Cheverly; four sisters, Maureen Albert of New York City, JoAnne Meister of Greenbelt and Mary Redmiles and Doris Hackley, both of Cheverly, and two brothers, Kenneth H. and Joseph McGaffin, both of Laurel.

NORA MAE CHASE ANDERSON,

69, a retired Fort Belvoir secretary, died of respiratory failure Aug. 4 at Alexandria Hospital.

Mrs. Anderson, a resident of Fairfax, was born in Brownville Junction, Maine, and attended Beal Busines School in Bangor.

Before moving to the Washington area in 1958, she worked for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in Maine.

She retired from Fort Belvoir in 1983 after 23 years of service.

Her husband, Glenn R. Anderson, died in 1983.

Survivors include one daughter, Eulila C. Hufford of Falls Church; four sons, Lee V.C. Anderson of Dale City, and Glenn R. Anderson Jr., William C. Anderson and Owen J. Anderson, all of Alexandria; one sister, Eulila C. Ludden of Alexandria; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.