Edward C. Berkowitz, a Washington lawyer for more than four decades who was also active in a variety of community cultural and charitable endeavors, died Dec. 22 at his home in Washington. He was 78.

He had prostate cancer, said his wife, Lois U. Berkowitz.

Mr. Berkowitz retired in 2007 after five years as general counsel to Kastle Systems International in Arlington, an office security business.

He had previously worked in real estate law at several Washington law firms, including Nixon Peabody; Zuckerman Spaeder LLP; and Lane & Edson.

Mr. Berkowitz came to Washington in 1964 as a National Labor Relations Board lawyer. Later he was a lawyer for COMSAT, a telecommunications firm.

His community work included assisting in the restoration and renovation of the Avalon Theatre near Chevy Chase Circle. He also served as a Smithsonian Institution docent in retirement and participated in an AARP and D.C. Bar pro bono program to assist prospective small-business owners.

Edward Chester Berkowitz was born in Perth Amboy, N.J. He graduated from Cornell University in 1956 and from Harvard Law School in 1959. He practiced law in Perth Amboy before coming to Washington.

He was a former board member of Temple Sinai in Washington. He was known as a lively and creative host of an annual Passover seder that included a touch of Mr. Berkowitz’s characteristic humor.

His avocations included hiking and mountain climbing, and he was a member of the Cornell Outdoor Education Alumni advisory council.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Lois Ullman Berkowitz of Washington; two sons, Steven Berkowitz of Oakton, Va., and Peter Berkowitz of Lafayette, Calif.; and three grandchildren. A son, Mark Berkowitz, died in 1989.

— Bart Barnes