"Together" is the operative word here. That's something both Rancho Cucamonga men know a lot about.
Capt. Hein retired Dec. 28 from the Montclair Fire Department after serving 30 years. As with firehouse tradition, Hein came home that morning riding Engine 152.
Zbinden retired the same day after years of service with various departments, the last being with the Pomona Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department in San Dimas.
Both men have talked about retirement, but nothing officially was planned. A severe back injury suffered by Zbinden while rescuing an injured driver in a car accident sealed the deal for him, although both men thought 30 years was enough.
Both families, though, have a long history together. The families have been friends for 30 years and neighbors twice, in two separate neighborhoods.
Each has three children - two girls and one boy. They presently live across the street from each other.
"We were neighbors 30 years ago and we always had a bond, but as friends do we went on to live separate lives. We moved, but then when we decided to come back to the Inland Valley we found the house we live in now," Zbinden said.
Zbinden found one house he was interested in.
The house that was for sale was popular with potential buyers. The sellers had eight offers on it, but once they found out about the history between the two families, they decided to go with the Zbindens.
"They say you can't choose your neighbors, but I think you can," said Elaine Hein with a huge smile.
That was 10 years ago and the families have grown even closer. The men golf. Their wives, Elaine and Kim (Zbinden), take care of each other as only families can. The fire service is a lot like military service with family members gone for long stretches of time and many family functions and holidays.
"Our wives have been a blessing in our lives. In many cases, they've been both moms and dads for our children when we had to work," said Zbinden, who has been a department chaplain for the past 9 years and who is very active in his church, Water of Life in Fontana.
"Our wives have been the captains of the house for so long, it's time for us to do our share. There's only so much a body can handle and for me, 30 years on the job was enough. I'm lucky to be able to walk out healthy and now look forward to retirement," Hein said.
"I have to admit it's going to be strange having him available to actually go places," Elaine Hein said with a chuckle.
It's been about a week of nothing but free time for both men. Right before their retirements they were asked what was the first thing they were looking forward to and both said, sleeping in. But neither is the type of man to sit in a rocker and watch the world go by.
Zbinden is involved with Firefighters for Christ, helps with a Bible study group and plans to continue his chaplain duties.
Hein is active at St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church in Rancho Cucamonga and with Mary's Mercy Center in San Bernardino. Hein has sat in for Santa for several years.
One year a young boy asked for a bike, and the center didn't have any to give.
"We thought we could do better than this," Hein said quietly. And then he and Elaine got involved in the center's bicycle holiday program for children.
The first year they managed to help obtain 69 bikes and each year that number has grown. This past Christmas 300 bikes were distributed to youngsters, many who have never owned one.
"There's nothing like the freedom a bike gives you and the opportunity to explore," Pat Hein said.
Hein said he also is looking forward to possibly volunteering with the American Red Cross because during the years he's seen the good work the nonprofit organization does when emergencies or tragedies happen.
And then there are those sports trips. Hein is a sports lover, big-time. His retirement bucket list has future trips to the Midwest and his beloved University of Notre Dame, Wrigley Field and Lambeau Field.
But for now there's a little rest and relaxation. The families celebrated the two retirements with an all-day open house right before 2012 ended.
Zbinden's son, Scott, serves with the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department and another neighbor of both families also has a son who is a Rancho Cucamonga firefighter. It was quite the party, honoring the end of a combined 60 years of fire service and a friendship that seems to be getting stronger with age.