Rita P. Park, 78, who had eight children, taught an estimated 600 Springfield third-graders and in retirement volunteered as a reading tutor, died of heart disease Oct. 2 at her home in Springfield.

Mrs. Park had the first of her children shortly after completing a master's degree in chemistry at Catholic University in 1952. She was a full-time mother and homemaker until 1973, when she joined the teaching staff of St. Bernadette School in Springfield.

She taught seventh and eighth grades for a year, then changed to third grade, where she spent the next 21 years. She retired from St. Bernadette in 1995.

She then volunteered as a reading tutor at Springfield Estates Elementary School and, with her husband, as a teacher of English as a Second Language at the St. Martin de Porres Senior Center in Alexandria, where she greatly enjoyed the excitement her students showed and learning about the cultures from which they came.

Mrs. Park was born in Dorchester, Mass., and graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston. In 1950, she came to Washington for graduate school. She was married in 1952, the year she and her husband earned master's degrees.

Mrs. Park was an avid traveler, visiting Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, France, Ireland, England, Bermuda and Poland.

She also enjoyed traveling to visit her children in Connecticut, Alabama and Montana and taking trips with her children and grandchildren to Hawaii, Alaska and Florida.

Mrs. Park was a founding parishioner at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Franconia. She played the organ at services and laundered and pressed linens and banners for the church.

In addition, she enjoyed gardening, spending much of her free time beautifying her home and yard. She was an avid reader on a variety of topics, often choosing her next book from those profiled in The Washington Post's Book World.

Her husband, John Park, died in 1998. An infant daughter, Catherine Park, died in 1960.

Survivors include seven children, John J. Park of Montgomery, Ala., Mary F. Norris of Gaithersburg, Thomas M. Park of New Canaan, Conn., Robert F. Park of Vienna, Elizabeth A. McWilliams of Fairfield, Mont., James R. Park of Alexandria and Joseph W. Park of Waldorf; a sister, Barbara Gunn of Rockville; and 14 grandchildren.