Enrique Bermudez, 58, the former hard-line commander of Nicaragua's contra rebels who was slain in Managua late Saturday, was one of the principal figures in Nicaragua's eight-year civil war and a mainstay of the Reagan administration's effort to topple the leftist Sandinista government.

But despite his leading military role and proven ability as a skilled infighter who survived repeated shifts in the rebel leadership and U.S. funding, Mr. Bermudez never managed to overcome his chief obstacle: his background as a prominent officer in Nicaragua's despised National Guard.

He was shot in the head by an unidentified gunman as he stepped from his car in front of Managua's Intercontinental Hotel about midnight Saturday. The assailant fled on foot, according to a local journalist on the scene.

A compact man with a pockmarked face, Mr. Bermudez was born to a family of modest means in the Nicaraguan city of Leon. He attended Nicaragua's military academy and later studied in Brazil, where he received an engineering degree.

As a young lieutenant in 1965, he was part of the U.S.-led multinational force that invaded the Dominican Republic to end civil unrest there. There he met his Dominican wife, Elsa, whom he married in 1966.

After returning to Nicaragua, he rose through the ranks, serving for a time as a top officer in the traffic police division of the National Guard. In the early 1970s, Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza sent then-Col. Bermudez to Washington as military attache, a privileged position.

For most of the 1970s, while the Sandinista guerrillas were gathering strength to overthrow Somoza and the National Guard was gaining notoriety for its brutal repression and atrocities, Mr. Bermudez was in the United States, commuting to work from his home in Montgomery County.

But almost immediately after the Sandinista triumph in July 1979, he began organizing the fight against the new revolutionary leadership, at first with help from Argentine intelligence officers and, beginning in 1982, with the CIA when U.S. dollars and support began to flow.

Building on his U.S. contacts from his years in Washington, he was a principal contact for American intelligence and security officials who oversaw the development and supply of the fledgling Nicaraguan Resistance, which became known as the contras.

The faction that Mr. Bermudez led, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, was by far the largest and most powerful of the contra groups that used guerrilla war and sabotage against the Sandinista regime. Supported by his extensive contacts in Washington, he survived repeated shake-ups in the group's leadership.

The infighting continued and intensified throughout the Nicaraguan war, even after Mr. Bermudez was elected to the contras' seven-member political directorate in July 1988, prompting several contra commanders to quit. He was a constant focus of criticism, both by Sandinistas and by contra officials and fighters, for his ties to the National Guard.

He also was criticized for the human-rights abuses of the contra force, and accused on several occasions of skimming from U.S. funds meant for the contras -- an allegation he denied.

Rival contra commanders accused him of being a dictator who exercised total control over the nearly 15,000 troops under his command, refusing to listen to advice or tolerate dissent. American strategists faulted him for lacking strategic or political vision, but acknowledged he was popular with the troops, many of them peasants. To the Sandinistas, he was a hated symbol of the past.

Despite the controversy that he seemed to attract, he held onto power until finally being ousted in February 1990 -- well after the fighting had ended. Last fall, after the new government of President Violeta Chamorro took office, he quietly moved back to Nicaragua after years of living in Honduras and Miami, saying he hoped to recover property confiscated by the Sandinistas.

He had kept out of politics until recently, when he met with former contras and said he would help them to recover property and rebuild their lives. He criticized the Chamorro government for neglecting the former rebels.

"His assassination is a tragic message for all Nicaraguans," said Bosco Matamoros, a close contact of Bermudez's and the former spokesman in Washington for the contras. "It means we don't have the capacity yet to solve our differences or accept them without violence."

Survivors include his wife and three children.


Fairfax School Principal

Margie W. Thompson, 66, a principal in the Fairfax County elementary schools for nearly 20 years before retiring in 1987, died of cancer Feb. 16 at Fairfax Hospital. She lived in Great Falls.

Dr. Thompson joined the Fairfax schools as a teacher at Great Falls Elementary School in 1967. The following year, she was became principal of Lake Anne Elementary in Reston. She later became principal at Terraset Elementary, also in Reston, and finally at Vienna Elementary, where she spent her last five years, before retiring.

She was the recipient of a Fairfax County Schools Principal-of-the-Year Award and a Washington Post award for distinguished education leadership, both for the 1986-87 school year. She had spent a sabbatical year in the early 1980s working with the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Dr. Thompson was a graduate of Trinity University in her native San Antonio, and received a master's degree in education from Southern Methodist University. She received an education doctorate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Before moving here in 1959, she taught in Texas elementary schools and at SMU.

She was a member of the Church of Christ in Falls Church. She taught the women's Bible class at the church.

Survivors include her husband of 45 years, Harry E. Thompson of Great Falls; two daughters, Andrea Greenfeld of Germantown, Md., and Megan McKenna of Leesburg; a brother, Dr. James L. Wyatt of Boerne, Tex.; and three grandchildren.


Air Force Administrator

Allan Eaffy, 79, a retired Air Force research administrator who was a member of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, died of cancer Feb. 15 at Suburban Hospital. He lived in Chevy Chase.

He began his civilian career with the Air Force in 1952 in Ohio. He transferred here in 1958, and retired in 1980 as deputy chief of staff for research and acquisition at Air Force headquarters.

Over the years, he directed the administration of a variety of programs leading to the development of new, specialized propellants. He was a 1980 recipient of an Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Award.

Mr. Eaffy was a native of Cleveland and an honors graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. He was an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II.

Survivors include his wife, Betty, of Chevy Chase; a son, David, of Woodstock, Conn.; two daughters, Janet Eaffy of Washington and Nancy Gerg of Arlington; a sister, Ruth Raab of Cincinnati; and a grandson.


College Professor

Elizabeth Czoniczer, 89, an area resident for the past two years who was a retired Romance languages college professor, died Feb. 14 at Manor Care nursing home in Potomac. She had Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Czoniczer, who had been in the nursing home for several months, was a resident of Potomac. She graduated from college in her native Hungary, came to this country in 1938, and received a master's degree in Romance languages from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in Romance languages from Columbia University.

She taught French and Italian at Barnard College from the mid-1950s to late 1960s. She then spent about five years on the faculty of the City University of New York before retiring. She moved here from New York state.

Her marriage to Gabor Czoniczer ended in divorce.

Survivors include a brother, Joseph Frommer of Bloomington, Ind.


Air Force Sergeant

Owen E. Davis, 75, a retired Air Force technical sergeant who had lived here since the 1950s, died Feb. 14 at the National Hospital for Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation after a heart attack.

Mr. Davis, who lived in Alexandria, was a native of Quincy, Mass. He joined the Army in 1934 and served with the Army Air Forces in the Pacific during World War II. He served with the Air Force in Germany during the Berlin Airlift and in Korea during the conflict there.

During much of his career, he was a crew chief, supervising maintenance work on Air Force planes. He was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base when he retired from the active duty in the early 1960s. He retired on medical disability when he was found to have multiple sclerosis.

Survivors include his wife, Edna B., of Alexandria; and a sister, Gertrude Graves of California.


Navy Chemist

Donald E. Field, 65, a chemist with the Naval Research Laboratory for 38 years before retiring in 1989, died of cancer Feb. 16 at his home in Falls Church.

Mr. Field was born in Wisconsin and grew up in Arlington. He was a graduate of Washington-Lee High School and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He served with the Army in Europe during World War II.

He had been a vestryman and junior warden of Trinity Episcopal Church in Arlington. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the Washington Paint Technical Group and the D.C. chapter of the Mayflower Descendants.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara, of Falls Church; four daughters, Julia Ragland of Manassas and Pamela Thompson and Donna and Diana Field, all of Falls Church; a sister, Barbara Rose of Leesburg; and five grandchildren.