Navy Sailor's Romantic Ballad for Wife Goes Viral on TikTok 64 Years Later: 'I Never Dreamed of This'

"It's so deeply meaningful — it tells my grandparents' love story," says record label exec Matt Block

Most & Susan then: Susan and Mort Wedding 2.tif Credit La Reserve Records Mort and Susan now: Mort and Susan Dancing 3.tif credit: La Reserve Records
“Music is a big part of our life,” says Susan (dancing with Mort in 2022 and at their 1960 wedding). “His songs have touched me deeply.”. Photo: La Reserve Records

Early one morning in December 1958, Navy petty officer third class Morton "Mort" Block, 19, was on the bridge of the USS Hazelwood destroyer in the North Atlantic, pining for a girl.

On shore leave back in the States four months earlier, he'd seen 17-year-old Susan Weber on the beach and "she took my breath away," he recalls. He was lovesick — and inspired.

"I knew she was the one. But I wasn't sure she felt the same way about me," Mort, now 82, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I thought, 'I'm going to write my feelings down and put them to music.'"

A trumpet player who dabbled in jazz groups, Block already had a melody kicking around his head, so he started putting lyrics to it: "My love," he wrote — the same words he would use to begin his letters to Susan. "I miss you more each day…"

His plan "was to play the song and sing for her when we got together again," he says. "I was hoping she'd see my passion. It was a little Shakespearean."

His Romeo move worked. "He wooed me with music," says Susan, 81. (It didn't hurt that the 6-foot-4-inch sailor also "looked sexy in his uniform," she adds.)

For more on Morton "Mort" Block's surprise hit, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Sailor: Mort Sailor pic.tif Credit: La Reserve Records
A portrait of Mort when he served as a a Navy sailor. La Reserve Records

The couple married June 12, 1960, and "My Love," the song Mort penned for her while smitten at sea, has remained special to the Kennett Square, Penn., couple and their family. (Their nephew Neil Vogel is CEO of DotDash Meredith, PEOPLE's parent company.)

"He would play that on the piano all through our marriage," says Susan.

But in March, "My Love" became a social media sensation after Mort and Susan's record label exec grandson Matt Block suggested releasing it as a single. A TikTok video featuring the song (along with black and white footage of Susan from their Miami Beach honeymoon) has over a million views and 432,600 likes.

at the beach: Atlantic City 1962.tif credit La Reserve Records
Susan and Mort on Atlantic City Beach in 1962. La Reserve Records

"It's unbelievable. I never thought anything like this would ever happen, especially at this age," says Mort, who with Susan has two sons and five grandchildren. "It's like a fresh start."

Although he made a career as a kitchen and bath designer, Mort's heart has always been in music. He's played in jazz bands throughout the years and his 80th birthday present to himself was a tattoo of the beloved trumpet that he's owned since he was 12.

For the past several years, he and Matt, who learned the trumpet from his grandfather, have spent time playing horns together — and during one jam session, Matt unearthed the sheet music for "My Love" that had been tucked away in a drawer.

"He said, 'Poppy, I think we should do an album,'" says Mort. "It'd still be sitting in the drawer if it wasn't for him."

Matt and Mort playing: 12314672_10156277830625029_4036219042991630249_o.tif Credit: Julie Block
“There’s a special bond between them,” says Susan of Mort and Matt (playing in 2015). Julie Block

Matt, co-founder La Reserve Records along with his brother Jacob and a friend, gathered jazz session musicians and jazz singer Benny Benack III to record the tune.

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"It's so deeply meaningful — it tells my grandparents' love story," says Matt of the slow, Sinatra-esque ballad. "I feel like it's this piece of history that we brought to life."

Even better, Mort says, it's just the beginning. A full-length album, Strange Harbors, featuring songs he and Matt co-wrote will be released later this year. The project has ignited a "burst of life," says Mort, who has begun writing new music again "based on ideas I've had for 60, 70 years."

"It's inspired me," he adds, "and renewed my purpose."

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