Ernest A. Lotito, 51, a public relations executive and publisher who was a former government official and newspaper reporter, died at Fairfax Hospital Dec. 21 after a heart attack.

Mr. Lotito, who was stricken at his home in Annandale, was the president of Tiber Potomac Inc., a public relations firm in Alexandria that he helped found last year. From 1980 to 1986, he was director of public and government affairs for the Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc., a management consulting firm.

Before that Mr. Lotito had more than a decade of experience on Capitol Hill, where he was press secretary to then-Sen. Joseph D. Tydings (D-Md.) and special assistant to Walter F. Mondale when he was a Democratic senator from Minnesota, and at the Commerce Department, where he was director of public affairs from 1977 to 1980.

He was a director of the National Italian-American Foundation. He had studied at the University of Padua as a Fulbright Fellow and from 1966 to 1968 he was a reporter and editor in the Rome bureau of United Press International.

He became a publisher in 1978 when he purchased the Calvert Independent, a weekly newspaper in Calvert County, Md. He later acquired three other weeklies, the South County Times, which is published in Prince George's County, and the Times Crescent and the St. Mary's Tide, both of which are published in St. Mary's County.

Mr. Lotito was born in Lyndhurst, N.J. He graduated from Rutgers University and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He served in the Army in the 1960s.

He began his newspaper career with the Commercial Leader, a weekly in Lyndhurst, and from 1960 to 1962, he was a reporter on the Newark News. He moved to the Washington area in 1962 and for the next four years he was a general assignment reporter on The Washington Post. He then went to Rome to work for UPI.

In 1968, Mr. Lotito was press secretary for Maryland Citizens for Humphrey-Muskie. From the end of 1968 to 1970, he was on Tydings' staff, and he worked for Mondale from 1971 to 1976. Before joining the Commerce Department he served briefly as director of communications for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He taught journalism at the University of Maryland from 1971 to 1976.

Mr. Lotito was a member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

His first wife, Renee Lotito, died in 1974.

Survivors include his wife, the former Margaret Cuthbertson, and two children by his first marriage, Ernest C. Lotito and Lisa Lotito, all of Annandale; his mother, Edna Mae Pharo of Fair Lawn, N.J.; his stepmother, Eleanor Lotito of Miami, and two sisters, Pat Di Scalfani of Fair Lawn and Edna Turano of Garfield, N.J.

RACHEL V. MATEER,

88, a bookkeeping and billing clerk with the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. from 1918 until she retired in 1963, died of congestive heart failure Dec. 18 at the Valley Health Nursing Center in Chilhowie, Va.

Mrs. Mateer was born in Fairfax and she lived in Arlington until she moved to Chilhowie in 1986.

She was a member of Mary Washington Chapter No. 50 of the Order of the Eastern Star and the First Nazarene Church in Arlington.

Her husband, Eiffel T. Mateer, died in 1961.

Survivors include three sisters, Pearl Diggs, Madge Dimsey and Maude Mintzell, all of Arlington.