Gregory B. Witcher, 32, a reporter with the Detroit bureau of the Wall Street Journal since 1987 who was a Washington native and former news employee of The Washington Post, died Sept. 13 at his home in Detroit. He had AIDS.

Mr. Witcher was born in Washington. He grew up in Anacostia, where he attended Frederick Douglass Junior High School before winning a scholarship to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He graduated from Williams College in 1981 with a degree in Chinese and African studies.

Mr. Witcher began his journalism career in 1977 as a copy aide at The Post. Over the next four years he rose from copy aide to become an intern and part-time copy editor on The Post's editorial page. In the summer of 1981, he was a summer intern reporter.

After leaving The Post, he was a reporter with the Atlanta Journal and Constitution before joining the staff of the Boston Globe in 1984 as a general assignment reporter. He served on that paper's urban affairs team, where he covered social services and wrote a series of articles on violence against Asian immigrants in the Boston area. In 1987, he joined the Journal, where he covered the auto industry and general business.

At The Post, he also contributed book reviews and opinion pieces to the paper's Sunday Outlook section and editorial page. They included an article he wrote on how it felt, at age 22, to finally be "too old" for something -- draft registration -- and moved on to examine the feelings of his generation toward the draft, protests and their country.

In 1980 he wrote an autobiographical essay for Outlook that told of "the anxiety of a 15-year-old black from Anacostia heading for the elite white prep school world of the Phillips Exeter Academy."

He wrote, "I felt unsettled, uncertain, a stranger in an alien land. It was, of course, an alien land to me. It has taken six years now to rid myself of that painfully self-conscious feeling, to bridge the black and white worlds that long seemed to tear me apart. It has taken me three years at Exeter and three more at another mostly white New England campus, Williams College, to learn one of the most basic lessons of my education: Don't make choices you don't have to make. Don't think you have to pick between having black friends or white friends, between talking black English or white English, between wearing street clothes or "preppie" clothes, between soul music or rock. Don't create unnecessary dilemmas. There are enough out there of other people's making."

Mr. Witcher had been a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Washington.

Survivors include his mother, Rita Witcher of Washington; two brothers, Guy, of Oxon Hill, and Gerald, of Baltimore; and three sisters, Gail Francis of Oxon Hill, and Sara Washington and Carol Witcher, both of Washington.


Arlington Principal

Lena M. Wolfe, 89, principal of Swanson Intermediate School in Arlington from its opening in 1940 until she retired in 1967, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 16 at Alexandria Hospital.

Miss Wolfe, who lived in Alexandria, was born in Bottineau, N.D., and grew up in Mount Jackson, Va. She graduated from James Madison College and received a master's degree in guidance from Columbia University.

Before moving to the Washington area and joining the Arlington school system in 1930, she taught high school in Mount Jackson, Norfolk and Boykins, Va. Before her appointment as principal at Swanson, Miss Wolfe taught at Washington-Lee High School and Thomas Jefferson Junior High School.

She was a past president of the Alexandria-Arlington Tuberculosis & Health Association, the Soroptimist Club of Arlington, the Arlington Inter Service Club Council, the Virginia Secondary Principals Association and the Virginia Council of Administrative Women.

She leaves no immediate survivors.


Navy Department Lawyer

John James Phelan, 74, a retired Navy Department lawyer who was a founding member of St. Pius X Catholic Church in Bowie, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 16 at Doctors' Hospital of Prince George's County.

Mr. Phelan, who lived in Bowie, was a native of Lawrence, Mass. He was a graduate of Harvard University and a cum laude graduate of Boston University's law school.

During World War II, he served in the Army and the Navy, where he became a counsel to Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, who commanded the Pacific Fleet at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

After the war, Mr. Phelan practiced law in Boston before moving to the Washington area as a staff director with the House Small Business Committee in 1953. Later that year, he began practicing law in Washington. From 1956 to 1960, he worked in the office of an assistant secretary of defense and for the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. From 1960 until retiring in 1976, he worked for the Navy Department. He retired as deputy general counsel for procurement.

He was a 1970 recipient of the Navy's Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Capitola Elizabeth Phelan of Bowie; a son, John III, of Washington; five daughters, Maureen Youngs of Whitewater, Wis., Jean Morais of Fort Washington, Kathleen Pasiakos of Danielson, Conn., and Sheila Ferrara and Monica Natelli, both of North Kingstown, R.I.; two sisters, Marguerite Donlan of Alexandria and Isabelle Phelan of Andover, Mass.; and 17 grandchildren.


Air Force Colonel

Morris C. Burkhart, 66, a computer software development consultant who was a retired Air Force colonel, died of cancer Sept. 14 at Mount Vernon Hospital. He lived in Alexandria.

Col. Burkhart, who had lived here since retiring from active duty in 1973, was a native of Ohio. He was a graduate of Oklahoma State University where he also earned master's and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering.

He began his military career with the Army Air Forces during World War II. He was a fighter pilot in Europe during the war. After that, he was a pilot and intelligence officer in the Far East, and was a pilot and instructor with a strategic reconnaissance wing of the Strategic Air Command.

In the 1960s, Col. Burkhart commanded an Air Force guidance and meteorological center in Ohio. His last assignment was at the Pentagon, where he worked in logistics.

His decorations included two Distinguished Service Medals.

Survivors include his wife, the former Mary Alice Matthews, and two sons, Morris Jr. and Robert E. Burkhart, all of Alexandria; two daughters, Eileen Shugoll of Gaithersburg, and Jeanne Pastore of Franconia; two brothers, Richard, of Pioneer, Ohio, and Edward, of Kirkland, Wash.; a sister, Mary Sue Frank of Stryker, Ohio; and 10 grandchildren.


Church Member

Elsbeth Leik Johnson, 88, a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church since the mid-1940s who had served on the board of lady managers of Alexandria Hospital, died of a cerebral hemmorhage Sept 15 at Alexandria Hospital.

Mrs. Johnson, an Alexandria resident for the last 52 years, was born in Estonia. She came to this country in the early 1920s and lived in New York before moving here in the late 1920s.

She had been a volunteer with the old Alexandria Community Chest. She also had been a Brownie and Girl Scout leader.

Her husband, William Arthur Johnson, whom she married in 1934, died in 1978. Her survivors include a daughter, Linda Ann Johnson of Alexandria; a brother, Frank Liik of Tampa, Fla.; a sister, Hildegard Bock of Los Angeles; and a granddaughter.


Woolworth Clerk

Mary Virginia Brown, 79, a clerk with the F.W. Woolworth store in Georgetown for 33 years before retiring in 1975, died Sept. 15 at her home in Arlington. She had congestive heart failure.

She had been a member of the Salvation Army Church in Arlington for the last 59 years. Mrs. Brown was a native of Arlington.

Her husband, Hamilton Tony Brown, died in 1968. Her survivors include a son, Donald Brown Sr. of Falls Church; three daughters, Anna Tyler of Sterling, Va., Gloria Holt of Arlington, and Carol Schnupp of Crofton; three sisters, Betty Berry of Fairfax, Audrey Coffman of Haymarket, and Margaret Thompson of Washington; two brothers, Billy Todd of Stafford, Va., and Bob Todd of Arlington; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.