Cover photo for John Patrick "Sonny" Ulicney's Obituary
John Patrick "Sonny" Ulicney Profile Photo
1936 John 2023

John Patrick "Sonny" Ulicney

June 28, 1936 — March 6, 2023

AUSTINTOWN — John Patrick “Sonny” Ulicney passed away Monday, March 6, 2023, peacefully and surrounded by those that loved him.

John was born June 28, 1936, to Nora and John “Pogy” Ulicney of Youngstown. John or “Mr. U” as he was known by his students, graduated from Ursuline High School in 1954, and went to work full-time while attending night school at Youngstown University. After two years, John switched to full-time days, then transferred to St. Joseph College in Indiana. One year later, he returned to Youngstown University and in 1962, graduated with an AB degree in sociology and biology, with additional classwork in education and the sciences. His graduate studies included work from Youngstown State University as well as the Universities of New York and Pittsburgh, through their extension programs.

After doing his student teaching at Ursuline, he was hired to teach biology, beginning in 1962. John taught five years, then left to become the first alumni director at Youngstown State University, returning to Ursuline in 1967. John was at Ursuline for 46 years, teaching biology and a variety of science courses, and then substituted for two additional years, after retiring in 2008.

While at Ursuline, Mr. Ulicney served as chairman of the science department; sophomore class advisor; faculty advisor to home and school; advisor to the science club; organizer and advisor for the chess club; co-chairman for the junior/senior prom; judged speech and debate for UHS and YSU; and served as building representative for the Confederation of Teachers. Other activities included being a contributor and evaluator for the revised edition of Holt, Reinhart and Winston’s Modern Biology textbook, as well as being one of the teachers selected to involve his classes with NASA’s Space Exposed Seed Project for Students.

Before becoming alumni director, John had already been active in several programs at the university including: treasurer of the YSU Alumni Association; chairman for the alumni homecoming; and president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Alumni Association. As director, he became a member of the American Alumni Council and the American Public Relations Association.

When John returned to Ursuline in 1969, he became involved with numerous scholastic activities such as: judging science fair projects; organizing science workshops for elementary teachers; worked with state Diocesan committees to develop an elementary level science curriculum; was one of the organizers and board member of The Lake-to-River Science Teacher Association; selected as one of the teachers to develop an environmental science course of study for Ohio; served on an educational technology advisory committee for the Ohio Department of Education; served as chairman for the Science Advisory Committee of the Industrial Information Institute for Education, Inc.; as well as being one of the educators selected to evaluate the Teachers’ Curriculum Guide for “Investigating Solid Waste Issues” for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

In recent years, Mr. Ulicney has remained a member of YSU’s I.A.C.U.C., an advisory committee; the Youngstown Area Physics Alliance; active in District 15 of the Ohio Academy of Science and Lake-to-River Science Association for Teachers.

In addition to his involvement with science programs, he taught high school CCD for St. Christine parish, served a two-year term on the Diocesan high school advisory board for CCD, as well as doing a TV program on CCD for the diocese.

Over the past few years, John has been honored by being named an Outstanding Educator by the I.I.I. for Education Inc.; selected as a “Great Teacher” by St. Vincent College’s Great Teacher Recognition Program; named as an Outstanding Teacher by the University of Chicago; listed as one of the Outstanding Secondary Educators of America; and chosen as Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Mahoning County Soil and Water Conservation District.

John has been married for 54 years to the former Judy Berard (UHS, ’59) and they have been blessed with four children, Christine (Johnny) Santana (UHS ’87), Jennifer (Todd) DeMain (UHS ’89), Sean Patrick (UHS ’91), and David (Mandy) Ulicney (UHS ’93). They also have six wonderful grandchildren, Maria (UHS ’17) and Angel John (UHS ’20) Santana, Anna Grace Ulicney, and Jasmine, Heather and Chelsea DeMain.

Judy and John, as well as their four children and their families, reside in Austintown, where they are members of St. Joseph Parish.

John was preceded in death by his parents; and his sister, Betty Ann Cubellis.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ursuline High School Scholarship Fund.

Family and friends may call from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 9, 2023, and from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. Friday, March 10, 2023, at the Higgins-Reardon Funeral Home, Austintown Chapel, 4303 Mahoning Ave., Austintown, OH 44515

A prayer service will be held at 10:15 a.m. Friday, at the funeral home, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. Friday, at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 4545 New Road, Austintown.

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, March 9, 2023

4:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Mass of Christian Burial

Friday, March 10, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

St. Joseph Catholic Church

4545 New Rd, Youngstown, OH 44515

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