John Mural Happy passed away on February 24th, 2023, at the age of 80 in his state of New Jersey. John was known for his caring and generous spirit, as well as his accomplishments as an athlete, scientist, and devoted father. He leaves behind his wife, Valentina, and son, John.
John was born on December 9th 1942 in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents were John Happy (parents: Phillip Happy and Anna Popovitz) and Mary Mural (parents: Catherina Shymansky and Andrew Mural). He attended Corlette Elementary School, Nathan Hale Junior High School, John Adams High School in Cleveland, and graduated from Orange High School in Pepper Pike, Ohio. He graduated from Denison University in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and the equivalent major in biology. He then attended the University of North Carolina Medical School at Chapel Hill North Carolina where he received a PhD in Biochemistry in 1970 while working in the department of psychiatry. His study on the brain continued throughout his professional career. He completed two postdoctoral research fellowships at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison. In 1974 he started work at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in East Hanover, New Jersey, where he was Unit Head in Drug Metabolism. He then moved to the CNS Department where he headed the Drug Discovery program for drugs for schizophrenia and anxiety. He was the first in the entire company to have microprocessor-controlled instruments that linked to computers for data reduction. He was the first to link his computers to mainframe computers. He was one of the first if not the first In the pharmaceutical industry to develop high capacity random screening for new drugs which led to his discovery of a unique anti-anxiety drug without the major side effects of drugs already on the market. Also in his capacity to discover new drugs for schizophrenia, he was instrumental in the development of Clozaril, the first novel atypical antipsychotic drug to be approved in the United States. John then moved to Clinical Research in CNS and continued his work on antipsychotics and anxiolytic drugs as well as drugs for Alzheimer's disease. He was Senior Clinical Research Scientist and oversaw clinical drug trials throughout the United States and Central and South America. He retired in 2000 from Novartis which was the merger of the two Swiss drug companies Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy.
John enjoyed the outdoors, athletic events, and especially climbing mountains and volcanoes. In one week he was on the summit of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii and seven days later was on the ice and snow of Mount Rainier in Washington. While sleeping on the summit of Mauna Loa volcano, he realized he was probably the highest sleeping human for at least five thousand miles in all directions. He started to run actively when he was 46. He said they finally had better running shoes that did not bother his knees, otherwise he would have started running earlier. In the next decade he completed over 33 marathons as well as other unique novelty Ultra events. When he gave up mountain climbing after a friend died, he competed in the Pikes Peak Ascent in Colorado, running up the 13-mile trail to 14,100 feet. He also completed the famous Empire State Building run up the stairs three times. At one of the events he ran to the top of the Empire State Building in the volunteer runup and turned around and ran the main race. He thinks he was the only one to ever run to the top of the Empire State Building two times in a row. In a twelve month period he ran 12 marathons and then completed three marathons and one half marathon in a four week period. He enjoyed pushing himself to the extreme edge. He enjoyed working with disabled athletes with the Achilles Running Club and guided them at the New York Marathon. One time he actually crossed the finish line twice. After finishing the marathon on his own, he ran back to find a disabled athlete who needed help running in the dark through Harlem. Both of them finally crossed the finish line 23 hours later; this was his longest race. It always impressed him that athletes with great disabilities never complained as they completed the races. He said you could learn a lot about how they approach hardship in life. John continued his running and racing throughout his life. He liked the idea that no one had to tell him how he did, it was self-evident.
John had a great interest in genealogy and after retiring from Novartis he traveled to Ukraine where his distant relatives lived. He was able to document all four grandparents’ roots in Ukraine into the 1700s. ”Happy” is the transliteration of his family name from Ukrainian. His grandfather, Andrew Mural, helped found St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the largest Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America (located in Cleveland) when he immigrated to the United States. John’s mother was the lead dancer for the Avermenko Ukrainian Dance company. John enjoyed staying in the Happy family home in Ukraine where his grandfather was born in 1895 in Hushanky, Ukraine. During one of his trips he met his future wife, Valentina, and was married in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, as well as in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2000. He has stated that he was able to say to his wife that she was guaranteed to be “happy” the rest of her life. In 2002 was the birth of their son, John Filip Happy. Over the years, they have made many trips to Ukraine to be with their family there.
John spent most of his spare time enjoying the outdoors and community volunteer work. Every mountain he saw he said he plans to climb it. Every trail that caught his eye he said he planned to hike it, and wherever he saw an exotic invasive plant he wanted to pull it. He made it his mission to educate everyone about the adverse impact of exotic invasives. To the dismay of his friends and neighbors he was continually pointing out invasives that needed to be removed from their front yards. Many times he could be found quietly whispering into the ears of local politicians pushing for support of issues he felt important. He was a member of the Denville Beautification Committee, Denville Path and Trails Committee, and on the Board of Directors of the Protect our Woods, Water and Wetland. He was also President of the John Happy CLL Research Foundation, a leukemia research foundation named after his father who died of leukemia at the age of 28, when John was only two months old.
His grave will be located in Cleveland, Ohio, in the Ukrainian section of Brooklyn Heights Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, John requested that you pet your dog, hug your family, smell a flower, and go for a run or walk in the woods.