KIM DAWSON, a woman synonymos with fashion, steps out from behind the catwalk, and hundreds pay homepage to the Dallas icon.

The Chantilly Ballroom of the Anatole Hotel was packed with women dressed in their spring best—pastel Chanel skirt suits with matching Manolos and Prada handbags. Ladies with cotton-candy tufts of blonde hair blew air kisses and offered high-pitched hellos. Jan Strimple, Mattie Roberts, Janine Turner, and Angie Harmon all turned out. They were there to honor the doyenne of Dallas models, Kim Dawson.

A former cover girl herself, Kim started her eponymous Dallas modeling agency in 1959. She has managed the careers of Angie Harmon, Janine Turner, and Jerry Hall, just to name a few. But in 2002 she publicly announced that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

The A.W.A.R.E. luncheon was likely to be Kim’s last big public appearance. Leading up to it, Michaelmarcus cosmetics created and named a lipstick, Kim’s Color, in her honor. Mayor Laura Miller declared March 4 "Kim Dawson Day." And some of the most famous names in the modeling world, women whose careers had been catapulted by Kim Dawson, flew in to pay tribute to their mentor.

Emceed by newsman Tracy Rowlett, the luncheon began with a few words about the latest in Alzheimer’s research, followed by a slide show of Kim Dawson’s career, decade by decade. (Two black-and-white photographs from that slide show appear in these pages.) Then the woman who everyone came to see made her grand entrance. Arm in arm with Angie for moral and physical support, Kim walked the runway slowly, steadily, and smiling. The Chantilly Ballroom sprang to its feet. In a smart, white Escada pantsuit, Kim waved to the crowd. Then out came 60 of the models who owe their careers to her, clapping and singing "We Are Family." She hugged each one of them as she retreated up the runway. • Backstage, renowned Dallas photographer Nic Nicosia set up to capture the historic moment. Lisa Dawson, Kim’s daughter, coordinated a group shot of her mother alongside Bridget Hall, the face of Anne Klein; Maybelline girl Erin Wasson; covergirl Chandra North; and other fresh faces. Nicosia was told to work quickly. A handler for the girls plugged in Nicosia’s flash and said, "Go." Nicosia got his shot, and the handler unplugged the flash—a 10-second chance to catch a moment that was years in the making.