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Children's Book Pays Tribute to Beloved Former Penn State Rugby Player

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Children's Book Pays Tribute to Beloved Former Penn State Rugby Player

A page from Tom Speicher's book "A Day with Waffles and Aleis." Reprinted with permission.

Tom Speicher was working on his second children’s book when tragedy struck.

The author of a book about Waffles the Guinea Pig (modeled after his own pet) about the days of the week and organization, Speicher was working on a follow-up related to baseball when his partner in life, Maria, learned the terrible news that her daughter, Alexis, had died. 

It was a hugely difficult time, and for Speicher, time for him to scrap book for a bit and focus on helping Maria. When he returned to the book, he decided on a new idea, one that honored Alexis and the things she loved in life, and one of those things was rugby.

Alexis Weisser played rugby at Penn State and later in grad school before returning to Pennsylvania to, among other things, help coach at Penn State with Head Coach Kate Daley and coach at the State College HS team.

Speicher and Maria started dating in 2019 and that's when he got to know Alexis, and even though she'd ended her rugby-playing days, it was clear the sport meant something to her.

“It’s been heartbreaking," Speicher said of the loss. "She was so loved by everyone and such an engaging and positive person to be around. I wanted to honor that."

The book follows Waffles and her friends as she tries new things with her friend, Alexis. One of those animal friends is Cashew, a dog who in real life belongs to Brown University Head Coach Rosalind Chou—Alexis often cared for Cashew when Chou needed a pet sitter. 

The way Speicher writes, he tries to involve the young reader in each page. He asks questions of the reader, bringing them further into the scene depicted and prompting them to think about what they like to do and what they'd like to try.


Meanwhile, Speicher’s illustrator, Marina Saumell, embraced not only depicting Alexis faithfully, but also depicting rugby movement with care.

“She was very excited about illustrating for rugby,” said Speicher. “She lives in Argentina and she has family that plays. What I’ve found out is that rugby is such a close-knit, caring community. The amount of love and support that has come from the rugby community is pretty amazing.”

The loss of Aleis Weisser has been a blow to her friends and teammates and family. She was training for a triathlon and getting ready for move to New York City for her job. She was excited for the next chapter.

But, tragically, something happened and she’s gone.


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This book takes the joy that rugby and sharing the rugby culture Alexis felt and hopefully shares it with young people.

“I know Alexis’ family takes comfort knowing that she had such a profound positive influence on countless people, many of them within the rugby community," said Speicher.

If you would like to purchase Tom Speicher’s book: “A Day with Waffles and Alexis” you can purchase it by clicking on the image below. A portion of the book's proceeds will go to support Penn State Women's Rugby.