Mercedes W. Palmer, a childhood development specialist who was the founder and director of the Howard University Hospital Child Care Center, died Nov. 25 at Grand Oaks Assisted Living in Washington. She was 87.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said her son, Robert Palmer.

Mrs. Palmer, a Washington resident, founded the Howard University Hospital Child Care Center in 1978 and managed the center until her retirement in 1993. Before that, she was a director of a day-care center at Sargent Memorial Presbyterian Church in Washington.

Mercedes Winona Hardwick was born in Asheville, N.C. She was a 1948 graduate of what is now Hampton University in Hampton, Va. She was also involved with the Head Start movement in the 1960s and was a schoolteacher in Houston before settling in Washington in 1970.

She was former president of the D.C. chapter of Links, a black women’s service organization, and Crafters, a District-based arts-and-crafts organization. She was also a member of the Tuskegee Airmen Women’s Auxiliary Association.

Her husband of 62 years, Augustus Palmer Sr., died in 2009 and their son, Augustus Palmer Jr., died in 2008. Survivors include four children, Rodney Palmer of Washington, Anne Palmer of Washington Township, N.J., Mercedes Palmer of Columbia, Md., and Robert Palmer of Kensington, Md.; a sister, Dolores Martin of Washington; a brother, John Hardwick of Columbia; and 10 grandchildren.

— Megan McDonough