Three veteran employes of The Washington Post received the newspaper's fifth annual Eugene Meyer Award yesterday in recognition of distinguished careers and contributions to the paper.

Receiving the awards were reporter Helen Dewar, the paper's chief congressional correspondent; Lou Limber, senior executive advertising manager, and L.C. Turner, plate preparation foreman of The Post's printing plant in Southeast Washington.

Publisher Donald E. Graham and Chairman of the Board Katharine Graham presented each with a plaque and a check for $5,000 at a reception attended by newspaper employes. The award is named for Katharine Graham's father, who purchased the newspaper at a bankruptcy sale in 1933 at a time when it ranked fifth in circulation among five papers in the city.

Katharine Graham told a crowd of 1,000 that the three winners had displayed characteristics in common with her father: "high principles, hard work and real dedication to lasting values."

"It is thanks to people like these three that we are where we are today," she said.

Donald Graham also praised the work of Dewar, Limber and Turner, all of whom joined the paper in 1961. "We almost never think of how far we've come over a period of years thanks to the hard work of people day after day after day," he said.

Dewar worked as a reporter for The Northern Virginia Sun before joining The Post. As a Post reporter, she covered government in Northern Virginia and became a leading analyst on state politics while reporting on the state legislature.

In 1977, she transferred to the paper's national staff, and in 1985 was awarded the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for her coverage of Congress. Graham joked yesterday that senators often look to Dewar to decipher events in that body. "These senators say they only understand what happened when they read Helen the next day."

Limber, who joined the paper as a sales representative in automotive advertising, worked in the retail and classified sections, where he held several managerial positions.

In 1980, he was elected president of the Advertising Club of Washington and was a recipient of the club's Crystal Prism Award in 1985. Katharine Graham described Limber as a follower of the "fight, fight, sell, sell school of sales."

Turner, who began his newspaper career in Norfolk, started at The Post as a stereotyper and quickly was promoted to foreman. He is credited with retraining his staff in new technology and facilitating the paper's move to printing facilities in Southeast.

"L.C. met emerging technology head-on and came out the winner," Katharine Graham said.