Bess Cohen, a retired Social Security Administration employee, died Wednesday of a stroke at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass. The former Baltimore area resident lived in Sun Valley, Calif. She was 78.
She retired in 1989 as assistant manager of Social Security's Canoga Park, Calif., office. She started working for the agency in 1969 and held positions in Baltimore, San Francisco and Santa Ana, Calif.
She was the mother of Ellen Naomi Cohen, who grew up in Baltimore and became Mama Cass Elliot, who sang during the 1960s with the Mamas and the Papas and who died in 1974.
Mrs. Cohen appeared in television commercials for Chun King food products and in a 1973 television special for which Mama Cass was the host.
She was born Bess Levine in San Francisco and reared in Edwardsville, Pa., near Wilkes-Barre.
She was a 1935 graduate of Bloomsburg State Teachers College and taught public school in Edwardsville until she married Philip Z. Cohen of Baltimore in 1940. Mr. Cohen died in 1962.
Graveside services for Mrs. Cohen were held yesterday .
She is survived by a son, Joseph W. Cohen of Saskatoon, Canada; a daughter, Leah Kunkel of Northampton; a sister, Lillian Rydell of New York; and two grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be made to B'nai B'rith.