The picture hangers on the wall are still there, but the pictures are gone, leaving a few dingy outlines.

Judy Ann Buffmire has packed up the pictures of her family and gone home. Those pictures had created a home-away-from-home of sorts in the State Office of Education for a woman who never expected years ago to venture further into the world than the demands of homemaking and parenthood.After nine years as director of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, and several times that many years in Utah government employ, social services, psychology and special education, she has retired.

`I'm going to take that summer off that I started a million years ago," said the ebullient veteran, whose work has touched the lives of many thousands of Utah's most fragile and dependent citizens.

When she decided to return to college in her early 30s, she didn't foresee a future that would take her from the Alaskan tundra to southern Utah's desert vastness - and from the bureaucratic mazes of Capitol Hill to the quiet side roads where the work goes on for the handicapped and the poor.

Several decades of assignments in education and social services evolved naturally out of her love for learning and her enthusiasm for the human condition, she said. She was successively a teacher (inventing "mainstreaming" of handicapped students before the term had been created), college instructor, director of a regional program for the handicapped, state education specialist, director of the Division of Family Services, Children Youth and Families Unit, director of the Registration Division and head of the rehabilitation program.

"I was a nurse's aide in hospitals in Price and Salt Lake City when I was young and I remember each time a baby was born - that first cry and the amazing energy it represented," she said. The impact was lasting.

Two vignettes from her bulging bag of experiences demonstrate the empathy and sensitivity she brought to her work.

As director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Resource Center, which she helped to initiate, she often visited Alaska to share her expertise with those who were dealing with handicapped youngsters.

On one occasion, handicapped children had been brought to the Alaskan community of Bethel for assessment and Buffmire detected a hostile attitude on the part of their parents. She asked her interpreter to find out where the problem lay."They want to know when you will take the children," the interpreter told her. "They are sure you are here to take them away."

When that very human concern had been put to rest and the parents assured that their children were not being removed from their care, the project moved forward.

The other vignette took her to the Navajo Indian reservations of the desert Southwest. Hogan-hopping by jeep, she visited the scattered homes of handicapped children. The mother of a blind child presented her with a small, roughly woven traditional Navajo blanket, crafted from the wool of the sheep her handicapped son had tended.

More than the gift, Buffmire said, she was touched by the wisdom of the Indian mother.

"The sheep used to tend our children," the woman told the visiting teacher. It was a gentle, typically obscure Navajo comment with much deeper meaning.

"What she was asking was: `Where will my son fit, now that you've changed his life?" Buffmire said. It was a reminder that changing lives can be a delicate undertaking with unforeseen consequences.

Retirement will be relative. Buffmire will keep her hand in by serving on a state study group and by maintaining a small private psychological practice. For the rest, the options are endless for someone who has never been daunted by horizons.